Live gig at Blind Willie’s in Atlanta
Article and pictures by Gary Weeks
American Blues News
If there is any band that can conjure up the ghosts of Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, R.L. Burnside and Fred McDowell, then those honors should go to Delta Moon. Their gig at Blind Willie’s in Atlanta, GA, was affirmation enough to prove that you can give a history lesson in the blues but never lose an audience in the process.
Driven by the rhythm section of bassist Franher Joseph and drummer Darren Stanley and bolstering a twin-guitar lineup of Mark Johnson and singer/songwriter Tom Gray, Delta Moon plays a tangled country-blues rock that breeds juke joint lowdown and chicken shack fever.
Both Johnson and Gray work with such a telepathic precision that it is almost uncanny. They don’t work against the other as so much as complement their lines so that a train wreck doesn’t happen. Their musical conversation resulted in strong call and response stylings that created slithery grooves in material ranging from Fred McDowell material to original songs.
McDowell seemed to be the main nemesis though. “Shake ‘Em on Down” strolled across a barbed wire fence like a swamp rat never losing his balance. And “You Got to Move” was a backporch recliner awash in moonshine.
But other strengths lay in presentation of original material. Both Gray and Johnson are powerhouse songwriters as evidenced in songs like “Hell Bound Train” that locomotive quickly to bottleneck junction. When they tore into R.L. Burnside’s “Goin’ Down South,” it was brewed with a cauldron of menace and not a taste of sugar.
The packed house seemed content just to listen and absorb the sounds. The overall juke joint fever must have seemed too much for them because eventually people poured on the dance floor to undulate themselves to the primeval beats and sexual rhythm of the music.
And basically the second and third sets of music were more or less the same. “Hip Shake Boogie” was even more of a soul shaker than its version found on the Stones’ Exile. Grasping Elmore James’ “Shake Your Moneymaker” was a quick visit to chicken shack boogie.
By the third set most of the crowd had spilled out of the nightclub. For the remaining patron that stayed were treated to more numbers that were sweat-drenched in white lightning, punch-nosed with mojo magic and soaked in juke joint grease.
When the band finished with Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle,” it had no bearing on a Chess Records songbook but was a skeleton in a New Orleans death march. Each band member came off the stage shaking a tambourine, striking a cowbell and banging a drum chanting “All night long,” ending the evening on a somber yet strong note.