Delta Moon – Riding on the Double Slide Train from Georgia.
By Iain Patience
Just over ten years ago, in 2003, Georgia band Delta Moon scooped the International Blues Challenge award in Memphis. For the Georgia band it was only a short hop across the state boundary into Tennessee, but it removed obstacles that blocked progress for the outfit and gave them an impetus to push against the invisible shackles and get their instantly recognizable, ringing sound out to a wider audience.
“Many of the prizes supposed to come with winning the IBC turned out to be difficult or impossible to collect, but that didn’t matter. Delta Moon was able to parlay the win into festival appearances all over the US and Canada, to more gigs, more press and more airplay. For us, the IBC victory was a huge stepping stone,” explains frontman, vocalist and twin slide guitarist Tom Gray.
Since then there have been countless albums, all strong-sellers, and successful tours across the US, UK, Europe and Scandinavia. This year alone, the band have played France and Germany with another visit on the cards and gigs in Spain and Italy already lined up for Autumn. They hope to return to both France and Germany next Spring. And would love to find some gigs in Scandinavia.
Delta Moon is a band that’s undergone a number of changes of personnel over the years. For some time they thought it best to have a female vocalist up-front. After winning the IBC with a particularly powerful singer, Gina Leigh — a lady with a voice reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt, to my mind — fronting things, when she departed in 2004, found another female replacement in Kristin Markiton. Markiton was with the band for only the album Howlin’. After she left, Tom Gray decided to step up and take over vocals. He believes this marked an important change for Delta Moon and its future direction.
“The band’s sound immediately got more focused and our path became clear,” Gray reckons. Delta Moon is probably unique in having two principal lead guitarists, both mostly electric, slide driven players. A sound that makes them ring loudly and gives them a fully formed sound at all times. Tom Gray is partnered by founding member Mark Johnson in this and ably supported by Darren Stanley on drums and solid bass from Franher Joseph.
“The double slide guitar approach is the core of Delta Moon’s sound, although it may not show up in every song. I sometimes play standard guitar or even keyboards if that’s what the song needs. But the double slide is something everyone can relate to and yet is, I think unique to our band. It’s a very identifiable sound and was the idea that brought Mark and me together. We never tire of exploring it,” adds Tom Gray. The band’s current album, Turn Around When Possible, is a live double project, recorded on tour in Germany in 2013, a country where the band has built a strong, regular touring schedule. This was a development that surprisingly grew organically from the roots up, as Tom Gray explains.
“A few years ago, before we were associated with any specific record label in Europe, we started getting wholesale CD orders from stores and catalogues in Germany. We didn’t have much radio airplay there but apparently our reputation was growing by word of mouth. We fit into a musical movement they call Handmade Music. So we tried for a couple of years to find an agent in the country and now we have a relationship that’s worked out well for everyone.”
Right now, the guys are in the studio back home, working on their next release which should be available fairly soon. Much of the band’s standard material is written n-house and has been described as being Blues-Infused American Roots. Tom Gray himself as been named songwriter of the year in 2007 by the American Roots Music Association. His songs have been recorded by many others including Cyndi Lauper, who scored a notable hit with the track “Money Changes Everything”, Manfred Mann, Carlene Carter — mostly associated with high-end country — and Bonnie Bramlett. But blues always lies at the heart of everything the band does.