Review of Low Down by Peter Merrett, PBS106.7, Melbourne, Australia

DELTA MOON – “Low Down”

Jumping Jack Records.

Tom Gray – Lead vocals, guitars, keyboards, songwriter and harmonica.

Mark Johnson – Guitar and vocals.

Franher Joseph –  Bass.

Marlon Patton – Drums.

Anna Kramer and Francine Reed – Backup vocals.


*** Track 1. – “Wrong Side Of Town”.

Funking it up with a N’Awlins feel has Johnson laying down some slide as wholesome as a big bowel of Crawfish Gumbo. Gray has that authentic southern whiskey soaked drawl that was made to sing the Blues. Oh yeah she has crossed the tracks to slum it, but is she really that well off and maybe the only one deluding them self is this little alley cat.

*** Track 2. – “Afterglow”.

Solid minor key Blues that questions her intentions. There is wonderful jungle beat that underlines Gray’s vocals as [Johnson] provides the stunning lead guitar. The rhythm section of this twin guitar led band are feisty but never overstep the mark. Great collaboration of band members on this one.

*** Track 3. – “Nothing You Can Tell A Fool”

The funk and jungle feel continue on this one with Johnson laying done his trademark slide. Gray’s voice is sublime as he weaves his story intertwined with Patton’s drums and the backing vocals of Krammer and Reed. Emotive, engaging and very palatable. Perfect Blues.

*** Track 4. – “Mean Streak”.

Yeah a story of the wrong gal and just how mean she can be. Gray is subdued and emotively expressive. Twin guitar attack creates a wall of sound that has a rhythm section rock solid as it underlines Gray’s raspy vocals. Quite a ethereal feel to this one but man it is just so good.

**** Track 5. – “Lowdown”.

The first cover on the album is the title track written by the enigmatic Tom Waites. This is a perfect match for Gray’s rasp that is done his way and not an imitation of Waites. More stripped down than previous tracks but none the less a great Blues with Johnson expressively providing the stunning slide that is mesmerizing. This is a great example of the poetry of Tom Waites and his rather different view of life. Absolutely wonderful all round performance.

*** Track 6 – “Down In The Flood”.

The second cover is another perfect track for Delta Moon. A classic N’Awlins story written by Bob Dylan, it can be fraught with danger taking on a Dylan track by damn this is just so good! Smothered with Mississippi mud from the Delta and that laid back feel that you would hear anywhere in the Lower 9th. Subtle slide guitar in  that distinctive Delta style by Johnson adds to the authentic feel. Mr. Dylan would approve.

*** Track 7 – “Open All Night”.

I sat back moving with the beat on this one and had the realization that l had that distinctive Bo Diddley jungle beat swirling around me. Gray lays down some stunning reed work from his harmonica and guitar as Patton maintains that jungle beat on drums. Gray and Patton’s dual guitars add a stunning element on this one. Wonderful stop time honkytonk at it’s best finishing with Gray’s keys.

*** Track 8. – “Spark In The Dark”.

Gray and Johnson provide us with a full on take no prisoners dual guitar attack here with Patton again shinning on drums, and Joseph’s bass. Tom Gray provides us with is rather quirky interpretation of life with this one that l ask you to take note of the lyrics. Frantic, powerful wall of Blues sounds with a great story for good measure.

*** Track 9. – “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues”.

When l saw this Skip James classic l questioned just how they would approach it. A tough powerful song that could easily overwhelm the singer and group. The moment Gray’s distinctive vocals started l felt  completely at ease as his raspy vocals enveloped the song perfectly. The Dobro and guitars of Gray and Johnson perfectly provide the mood and authenticity required on a song that would have broken most performers. Delta Moon live up to their name and shine on this one with an atmospheric feel that adds to the pathos of such a gritty story. Yeah Skip would be happy just as we are, Delta Blues with a capitol A.

*** Track 10. – “Mayfly”.

Moving away from the Delta into some South Texas Country Blues. Quite a jaunty feel with Johnson’s country style slide playing around and under a less raspy Gray who penned this one. Very close to being Texas roadhouse Blues but still with the Delta underling it. This one makes you want to dance.

*** Track 11. – “Jelly Roll”.

Great little Swamp Rocker with a juke joint feel to it. The band chorus Gray adding a different dynamic that also adds to that juke joint feel. Definitely a jaunty little rocker as Gray tells us all about his Jelly Roll and what he should have asked her. Fun, fun, fun track.

*** Track 12. – “Jackie Ray”.

A powerful dark Blues imbued with Gray’s keys and Johnson’s cutting guitar. Quite a statement with this dark offering as Gray implores Jackie Ray to be happy even with such a dark track. Gray provides keys and harp in this full on attack of one’s senses. A standout is the dual vocals that add a powerful effect to Gray’s strong vocals.

Delta Moon is a group l/we are unfamiliar with and had no preconceived ideas as to just what they would sound like. As soon as l had listened to the entire album l sat back and all l could say was “wow, wow, wow”. Damn why hadn’t we heard of this powerhouse group before now? Great songwriting  and incredible playing from a more than talented outfit. The dual guitar leads of Gray and Johnson elevate this album above many an established outfit. Gray provides wonderful expressive raspy vocals that have the feel of Mississippi in the 40’s. The interpretations of the Tom Waites, Bob Dylan and Skip James songs add to the attraction of the group and only serve to establish their bonafides  as a great Blues outfit. All l can say is l need another dose of Delta Moon!

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