“Hell Bound Train” review in Hittin’ the Note

Delta Moon
Hellbound Train

Red Parlor

By Tom Clarke
Hittin’ the Note

Delta Moon’s songs fascinate like the vestiges of a shotgun shack, pitted planks that retain the essence of what thrived way, way back. This Atlanta-based quartet wrings slippery, piquant juice from yesteryear’s Mississippi blues and enhances it with dual slide guitars and incredibly catchy beats. In what might seem a crowded field, they’re one of a kind, triggering excitement all through the twists and turns on their new Hellbound Train. Founders Tom Gray and Mark Johnson are instinctive partners. On “You Got to Move,” Johnson unleashes liquid devil on the bottleneck while Gray wrenches jagged daggers from his lap steel and sings like a washboard caked with leftover grit. Listen as well to bassist Franher Joseph and drummer Darren Stanley as they bend through the groove with shared solidity. The living room video of that classic Mississippi Fred McDowell tune (the album’s lone cover) on the band’s site allows one to share in the incredible feel these gentlemen possess. Real-life songwriting is a Delta Moon hallmark. “Take the Back Road Home” waves a cautionary finger while setting the ass in motion, singer Francine Reed adding understated gospel fervor. A sign of the times reveals crude callousness in “Room 429,” and the tough, hypnotic beat in “Lonely” stresses the despair of a broken union. The album closes with “Plantation Song,” which Gray performs alone and gracefully on Dobro. Despite the powerful subject matter and frank truths, the song is just wonderful-one of the many bright blue beams reflecting the beauty of Delta Moon.

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