Concert Review: Delta Moon
Delta Moon in the Reigen, Vienna, April 13, 2015
blues.at (Follow this link for the original German text.)
By Werner Simon
Blues bands with two guitarists and rhythm are not unusual; blues bands with two slide guitarists and rhythm are.
“Crazy,” says lead singer and guitarist Tom Gray, “but it works.” On stage he plays two open-tuned guitars that he plays with a bar, but not seated as with a Weissenborn or lap steel. “At home,” he says, “I have a Weissenborn, and I even play them sitting down, but in the electric concert I play standing up, as that is more appropriate.” Both instruments he uses angled to the body and supports them with the thigh, a certainly not very comfortable posture.
His “partner in crime” Mark Johnson told me how he came to the band name “Delta Moon”: “About 25 years ago I was in Clarksdale and visited the nearby cabin of Muddy Waters on the Stovall Plantation. When I saw the pale (full) moon above the horizon, I knew that would be the name of my next band. ” Later the restored cottage was moved to the Blues Museum in Clarksdale, where I was able to admire it along with Sissi ten years ago. Mark plays his guitar conventionally with slide, and the sound that the two develop, is in its compactness and wealth probably unequaled. Whether “call and response”, in unison, counterpoint, or complementing each other in solo — there is no facet missing. The fact is that the two men do not allow a single mistake, and of course after a couple of songs you never worry this could happen. From a “battle” there is no talk, no one wants to outdo the other, no one takes place in the foreground, and the harmony and great joy of the evening is marked.
The lead singing is by Tom alone. The others sing in the background, with emphasis being placed on Franher Joseph’s stand-out bass voice. The only African-American in the group, he could be singing a few pieces solo. His bass guitar he plays the way it should be –not superficially, but without it a good part of the grooves would be missing.
Drummer Vic Stafford is the “Benjamin” of the band, to which he has belonged only since this year. As a rhythmic backbone, he plays a solid beat and is always on point.
Although firm in the hot blues rock — the Stones, Creedence Clearwater, ZZ Top, Allman Brothers and others have been extensively heard and adapted to a part of the Delta Moon sound — the band does justice quite well to the origins and roots of music. They act relaxed, “laid back” and “down home”, no one gets upset, no one acts eccentric, the volume can be described as pleasant. Of course, effect devices are used, but not excessive and always in the right places. As a gimmick Tom sings two pieces on the microphone of an ordinary telephone handset, the limited frequency response resulting in an altered voice, which the audience likes.
The varied repertoire of the evening leaves nothing to be desired, you can hear tracks in all speeds, Latin flavored, Bo Diddley rhythm, modified country blues (“Hard Times” by Skip James), Rock ‘n’ Roll, covers (“Who Do You Love” , “Little Red Rooster,” “Hip Shake”, and others) and original compositions by Tom Gray (“Ghost In My Guitar”, “Don’t Want A Skinny Woman” [actually an R.L Burnside song. TG], “Clear Blue Flame”, and others).
Toward the end, the guitars and the bass march down from the stage right in front of the audience.
With “Hip Shake” Sissi is faltering and thinking. This is a signature number of our dear friend Abi Wallenstein. “Both interpretations are equally good,” she notes diplomatically, but I do not like to make comparisons and even consider it inadmissible.
The final “Let’s Boogie” is knotless Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Sissi is pleased to note that many guests shake and dance, even the men who otherwise always sit “like manner”.
And … no, a piano was not missed this time!
A superb “Five Star” concert, which has earned a superlative!