“Hell Bound Train” review in The Sunday Paper

“HELL BOUND TRAIN” (RED PARLOR)

By Hal Horowitz
Sunday Paper

The interconnected guitars of Mark Johnson and Tom Gray are locked and loaded on Delta Moon’s follow-up to 2007’s successful “Clear Blue Flame.” That album was the band’s first without a female singer, and even though Atlanta’s Francine Reed contributes her husky pipes to four songs here, Moon’s core quartet drives this swampy Southern blues/rock through its electric Delta pedigree.

The opening title track is a prime example of Moon’s sinewy attack, as a repeated riff emphasizes Gray’s flinty vocals and the crisp rhythm section falls in. But four songs later, Johnson is adding six-string banjo to the red-clay mix, bringing an already earthy sound even closer to its roots.

There’s no denying the music’s hip-shaking appeal, but like the best blues, there’s an underlying edge to Moon’s sound. It’s expressed through the lyrics of “True Love Lies” and the ghostly “Stuck in Carolina,” whose protagonist is “broke and all alone.” The upbeat jauntiness of “Ain’t No Train” barely masks the story of a man whose determined love for his ex is as unstoppable as the titular mode of transportation, even approaching stalker dimensions. Gray sings of having a “Ghost in My Guitar” as the instrumental slide solo underlines the concept of that eerie mid-tempo rocker, set atop bubbling congas.

On the acoustic, waltz-time “Plantation Song,” Gray inhabits the persona of a slave owner defending his profession. It’s a startling change-up from the band’s norm, and leaves this already shadowy and rugged album in unsettling yet provocative territory.

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