Delta Moon – Cabbagetown
By Tom Clarke
Some 18 years ago, when slide guitarist Mark Johnson witnessed a big yellow orb rising over Muddy Waters’ cabin in Mississippi, he knew he had the name of his new band—Delta Moon. For a group entrenched in organic blues to have developed such a singular, recognizable sound took major talent, vision, and determination. Delta Moon began as an acoustic-based trio featuring Johnson and fellow dazzling slide guitarist, Tom Gray. Time and a shuffled lineup has taken them to Cabbagetown, and a funny thing happened along the way. Tightening their model resulted in fine expansions in style.
Singer/bassist Franher Joseph and drummer Marlon Patton play rhythms that can support anything, while Johnson and Gray go to town and then some. The utterly infectious opener, “Rock and Roll Girl,” finds them in heartland rock mode, Johnson cruising on lap steel while Gray sings autobiographically of his life, and celebrates his better half. “The Day Before Tomorrow” mines similar territory, with a nifty assertion around the timeworn message that “Today’s the day—live it like it’s your last.” “Just Lucky I Guess,” next, works a deep blues furrow, the simple melody punctuated by sweet acoustic, and stinging National Steel slide. Gray wrote all three, and not only does he have a way with a pen, he sings in an abraded, but very tuneful set of pipes, the gruff nature perfect no matter the context of the tune.
One of the biggest advances in the band’s gamut, arrives with “Refugee,” a full band collaboration that lopes along and paints the pictures of three harrowing experiences in the victim’s “voices,” complete with background cries, gospel-style. Good God, it makes you throb, and think. On every one of Delta Moon’s eight studio albums and three live ones, there’s at least one “mooned-up” old blues. Here it’s Son House’s “Death Letter,” done animated, Joseph’s bass vocal and the harp by friend Jon Liebman adding great effects. Somehow, through all the moods, Delta Moon albums have an upbeat way about them. This new Moon shines in that way and much more.