Review of Live Vols. 1 & 2 in Keys and Chords (Belgium)

Delta Moon: Life’s A Song – Live Volume One / Turn Around When Possible – Live Volume Two

By Philip Verhaege

Keys and Chords (Follow this link for the original Dutch text.)

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Delta Moon presents in two live albums the best of contemporary exciting blues scene. Both volumes are a clever mix of original and remarkable covers. Great stuff!

In 2008 Tom Gray (vocals, lap steel guitar and keyboard) won the American Roots Music Association award for the best “Blues Songwriter of the Year”. He was born in Washington DC, but grew up in Virginia and Georgia. Tom also had a home on a farm in the mountains of North Carolina. By chance, he met his friend Mark Johnson (guitar) in his uncle’s record store in Atlanta. They soon formed the duo Delta Moon. The band name was made up by Mark after a pilgrimage to the shack of Muddy Waters near Clarksdale, Mississippi. After bassist Franher Joseph and drummer Darren Stanley were added to the band, they played many festivals around Atlanta and in the South of the United States. They soon gathered a lot of local awards, and after winning in 2003 the International Blues Challenge in Memphis they began touring as far as Canada and Europe.

Now the quartet presents Life’s A Song – Live Volume One and Turn Around When Possible – Live Volume Two, a diptych of recent concert recordings. Volume Two was recorded during a European tour on May 7, 2013, at Meisenfrei in the German city of Bremen. Volume One, by contrast, comes from a US tour and was recorded at various locations in 2012. Naturally and inevitably some of the same songs appear on both set lists. Front man Tom Gray sings with a gravelly voice and blues runs rampant between Chicago and Texas. The songs evolve further into mature, handsome jump tunes and a marshy swamp sound.

In Volume Two is the clever cover “Nightclubbing” by David Bowie and Iggy Pop. The song was penned in the German period and featured on Iggy ‘s solo debut The Idiot from 1977. Furthermore, there are clever versions of RL Burnside’s “Goin ‘ Down South” and “Shake ‘Em on Down” by Fred McDowell.

In Volume One, the American section, the band presents in more than 75 minutes no fewer than 14 songs. Again, the slide and lap steel guitar are the backbone and the common theme of the live performances. The rebellious Delta Blues sound is created in songs like “Hell Bound Train”, the title track of their eponymous album in 2010, “You Got To Move” by Fred McDowell and the original songs “Clear Blue Flame” and the exciting “Lap Dog”. The show ends with the great and passionate “Shake Your Hips” — more than ten minutes long, the fans ecstatic. Delicious! Both performances are perfect examples of how contemporary Southern Blues and Roots music should sound live. Recommended!

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