Hell Bound Train
By Art Tipaldi
It may be the year’s coolest song. Fast forward to “Ghost in My Guitar,” pick up your own battered axe, and see what might happen. D-Mooners Tom Gray and Mark Johnson’s “crossroads” meeting happens on a stormy night in a hotel room tradin’ licks with the supernatural force that inhabits the box. Gray and Johnson’s haunting, double slide guitar shade the song with as ominous a color as any midnight meeting. This is a great vehicle for explaining how every guitar player comes under the spell of obscure, country blues.
The other 10 songs are just as riveting. Gray’s scratchy, dirt road vocals tell the tales as he and Johnson articulate a variety of string arrangements from lap slide to banjo to a deluge of twin slide guitars. There’s the hard driving title track, a top down, slide guitar ride through the Mississippi hill country, the smooth glide of “Get Gone,” with Johnson’s banjo augmenting Gray’s eloquent slide, and the back porch arrangement of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “You Got to Move.”
To make it all work, Delta Moon’s rhythm section of Franher Joseph (bass) and Darren Stanley (drums) drive the sound. The steam rollin’ rhythm section drives the Delta Moon engine on “Ain’t No Train” and “Room 429.” The pounding groove and hardcore slide of “Lonely” only adds to the feeling of abandonment. “Stuck in Carolina” features a broke and dejected Gray reachin’ out to his girl. As the CD ends, the band off-roads on “Take the Back Road Home,” a country tonk styled tune led by Gray’s weathered voice and finishes with “Plantation Song,” a dirge to the horrors of the Southern plantation system. Acoustically performed with only a solemnly picked guitar, Gray calls out with the statement, “We’re all from Dixie too.”
The consistent mood and atmosphere created here makes this 11-song record a pleasure each time it plays. With clever songwriting, stripped down arrangements, and Gray’s toughened vocals, Delta Moon has crafted a solid album.