In our travels last year through Spain, Germany, Italy and eastern Europe we saw a lot of migrants tramping along the roadside, begging and busking in city streets, or camping by fences with nowhere left to go. According to the United Nations, 65 million refugees are wandering the world today, displaced by war, overpopulation and climate change. That’s a lot of people — more than the combined populations of New York and California.

All of us in Delta Moon were affected by what we saw on that trip. When we returned to America Mark wanted to write a song called “Refugee” over a guitar lick he had come up with. The band came up with a chanted chorus and three verses, each in the voice of a particular person we had seen or heard about. (“Issme” is Arabic for “my name is…”) We decided that Franher and I would each speak a verse, and then our friend Kyshona Armstrong came in to deliver the female verse. She also volunteered some harmonies and powerful wailing at the end.

This is an unusual song for Delta Moon, but it’s one we all feel strongly about. When I posted it to YouTube last night the video got its first thumbs down before the tenth view. Voting has continued at roughly four positive for every negative, with a very high ratio of reactions. Everyone seems to feel strongly about it, one way or the other.

Please let us know what you think.

Pre-order the New Album

Delta Moon’s new album, CABBAGETOWN, features the band’s signature dual slide guitar sound, but with some new sonic twists. These songs explore fresh territory, inspired by people and scenes the band has experienced at home and in their travels. Five-time Grammy winner Susan Archie is doing the artwork. International distribution is already set up. But to get this music out of the studio and into the world we need your help.

Through PledgeMusic you can pre-order CABBAGETOWN and get the inside track on exclusive information, videos and merchandise not available anywhere else.

Ten percent of any money raised beyond our goal will go to the Music Maker Relief Foundation, which was founded to preserve the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who make it, ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty or time.

To all our supporters, a big thank you, and please tell a friend.

The Revolving Throne

Some of you may know that Delta Moon started without a drummer, way back in the ancient times. Our first gigs were acoustic. It didn’t take us long, though, to crank up the volume. As some guys we once met in Bavaria said, after telling us they had been drinking beer since nine in the morning, “Now we have reached a good level.”

Meanwhile, Delta Moon‘s drum throne continues to spin. Vic Stafford’s broken hand has healed. But now Vic has taken a job running audio for a new TV show at Turner, which is covering his medical bills but has severely cut his ability to travel or take weeknight gigs. Vic will continue to play with the band, but so will Marlon Patton, who played on our last two albums and the recent European tour, along with a new friend, Zack Albetta, and our buddy Yonrico Scott, formerly of the Derek Trucks Band and now with the Royal Southern Brotherhood. No slouches there, any of them.

Here’s video of three songs we played with Marlon on the Closing Time radio show in Trieste, Italy.

Speaking Catalan (or At Least I Tried)

Before Delta Moon’s show in Lleida, Spain, our Spanish agent, Pepe Ferrández, handed me a cardboard box and said, “The government requires that I give this to you.”

The box was labeled with a picture of a winking face and the words un gest per la llengua, which is Catalan for “a gesture towards language”.

There are actually several languages spoken in Spain. The main ones are Spanish (Castillian), used by the government and national media and understood almost everywhere, Galician, which is sort of halfway between Spanish and Portuguese with its own unique elements, Catalan, more like halfway between Spanish and French with its own unique elements, and the Basque language, which is unlike anything else.

The cardboard box contained a kit prepared by the General Directorate for Language Policy of the Ministry of Culture “for scientists and artists who visit Catalonia.” Inside I found a booklet, a set of seven flashcards with phrases like bona nit (Catalan for “good evening”), moltes gràcies (“thank you very much”) and fins aviat (“see you soon”), and a badge with the winking face that actually contained an audio player, with a set of earbuds and a USB connection. I guess the idea was that you could practice the phrases either on your computer in a hotel room or by using the badge while walking down the street or whatever. You could also cue up a phrase, and when it came time to say, “It’s a pleasure to be here with all of you,” just fiddle with the badge and repeat whatever came to your ear.

Bona nit I already knew. I paced up and down the dressing room trying to get the other phrases to flow naturally. On stage that night I spoke half in English, trying to throw in as much Catalan as I could. After the show I asked Pepe how it sounded.

“They got bona nit and fins aviat,” he said.”I don’t think anyone understood anything else you said. But they appreciated that you were trying.”

Speaking English

Delta Moon has been in Madrid a week now, and I’ve almost quit trying to speak to people in Spanish. It’s not that I can’t make myself understood. I have a hard time following the answers. And what’s the point when just about everyone in downtown Madrid speaks English?

At first I thought there was some giveaway in my appearance. Before I could say a word a waitress would ask, “Would you like an English menu?” A store clerk would say, “One euro and ninety cents, please.” How did they know?

Then I realized that while most people in the streets spoke Spanish, many were speaking English, often with foreign accents. People come to Madrid from all over the world. If they didn’t speak English originally, most of them studied it as a second language in school. When the Japanese, the Korean, the Indian, the German and the Swede need to talk together, they do it in English.

Walking among the downtown crowds, I started a mental collection of overheard English tidbits:

“We came from the car laughing.”

“Ten euros. Two shots. One drink. One disco.”

“Ten minutes. One girl. You don’t need?”

My favorite was a couple in the Plaza Mayor. The woman was taking the man’s picture. She said, “Try to look happy.”

He said, “I am, damn it.”

Good News and Bad News

Last night Vic Stafford, Delta Moon’s drummer, sent a text to the other members of the band: “Hey guys good news and bad news. First I broke my hand. Might need a sub. Just kidding about the good news. Will call when I get out of the ER.”

Later he sent us a photo of an x-ray. It’s not pretty. The bad news is Vic is out for at least six weeks.

But we do have some good news. Yonrico Scott (formerly with the Derek Trucks Band and now the Royal Southern Brotherhood) said he was wide open this week and would be delighted to rehearse and come with us to Tallahassee Friday to play at the Bradfordville Blues Club.

Yonrico is a powerhouse drummer and radiates intense positive energy onstage. Every show he has played with Delta Moon, whether a jam or a full gig, has been a memorable experience. Friday will be a lot of fun.

We hope Vic heals quickly. Between touring and recording, we’ve got a heavy schedule in the New Year, and we don’t intend to cancel anything. This is what we do. We are not trying just to get the gigs covered; we want to make them the best they can possibly be, for the audience’s sake and our own too.

The adventure continues.

The Love Hormone

In an ongoing effort to put my life in order, I’ve been reading The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin, author of This is Your Brain on Music. On page 142 I found this:

“There’s a hormone in the brain released by the back half of the pituitary gland, oxytocin, that has been called by the popular press the love hormone, because it used to be thought that oxytocin is what causes people to fall in love with each other. When a person has an orgasm, oxytocin is released, and one of the effects of oxytocin is to make us feel bonded to others.”

And on the next page: “Music has been shown to increase oxytocin levels, especially when people listen to or play music together.”

This explains a lot. Now I know why I love the other guys in Delta Moon, and why by the end of a show I love every person in the audience.

But there’s more, on page 158: “Humans and other animals are often unselfish. Geese will come to the aid of one another at great personal risk; vervet monkeys broadcast alarm calls when predators are near, greatly increasing their own visibility to those predators, and meerkats stand guard for predators while the rest of their pack are eating. What is the neurochemical mechanism that supports this altruistic sentinel behavior? Oxytocin — the same social-affiliative hormone that increases trust and social cooperation among humans.”

What the world needs now is a lot more oxytocin.

And now you know how to make it….

(Photo by Arianna Ligi)