“Black Cat Oil” Review in Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange

Delta Moon

Red Parlor Records

By Mark S. Tucker

Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange

Back in the late 90s, I picked up a shitload of offbeat LPs for almost nothing—some guy was moving back East and wanted to thin out his record collection—and among them was a funky looking slab called Electronic Eden by a band going by the moniker The Brains. I mean, the cover was really bad, cheap as shit, no more than a bad afterthought, and I was about to stick the album in a pile for the Salvation Army when I noticed it’d been produced by Steve Lillywhite. Wellllll, anything Lillywhite involved himself with was worth at least a cursory listen, so I put it on and found myself digging it, enough so that I then tried locating their earlier release, The Brains…to no avail (and still haven’t unearthed it to this day). Cyndi Lauper, however, had snagged that disc, singled out Money Changes Everything, and it was a big hit for her. Then Manfred Mann sliced Heart in the Street out of Eden and stuck it on his/their Chance release. Not bad for a band that got nowhere otherwise.

But times change, and with them so do audience tastes and musican talents. Tom Gray was the focal point of The Brains, and he went on to form Delta Moon, now favoring a distinctly blues approach to the rock and roll he started out in. The rock element seems to have faded back a bit to a folkier resonance, and the progression into blues has found itself favoring the side of slow rhythmic sways and laments, though not dwelling there exclusively, with Gray sounding like a weary Mark Knopfler as he sings the working man’s life. He and co-guitarist Mark Johnson are adept at crafting fine slide lines and catchy hooks, propelling each cut along under midnight skies and blurry stars, and, when they’re of amind to, can really peal off some fine leads, short but pithy.

Marlon Patton seems to have rattletrapped his drum kit and gets a really attractive funkier ground-level noise from it while Franher Johnson’s bass is deceptively perky, in fact the true-est energetic point in the ensemble. How he manages to capture that quality without a flurry of notes is beyond me, but Delta Moon is a group wherein the back section is just as important as the front cats, though neither’s vying for primacy, concentrated instead on imbuing the relatively simple format of each atmospheric song with a dusky life way south of the Mason Dixon line (any further and they’d be swimming in the Gulf). And, as I found out to my immense satisfaction, this is one CD that REALLY grows on you the more you spin it.

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