Review of Low Down in Blues-Finland (Finland)

Blues-Finland (Follow this link for the original Finnish text.)

The Shining Moon of the Delta

Delta Moon from Atlanta knows how to cook something new and tasty from old ingredients.

By Marko Aho

The digital distribution of music has been a popular topic for many years and seems like it is not going away anytime soon. As a music fan, I myself am a friend of “real” CDs. It’s just not possible for me to be thrilled at the idea of buying my music as bits only. Looking at the cover and going through the booklet that came with the new CD is just so damn fun to do.

However, my passion for real CDs is shadowed by laziness. That’s why I am a frequent Spotify user. I often listen to the CDs that I already own there. Some specific songs are so much easier and faster to find from the computer than from the CD shelf that’s still awaiting to be arranged. From this reason Spotify is quite familiar with my musical tastes. That takes us to the topic.

In my opinion, the best feature of Spotify is the suggestion of albums. It offers similar artists than the one that I am listening to now. At times the similarity is very nominal, but fortunately I have an unpredictable taste for music.

At some point at the start of the year Spotify recommended me to listen to Delta Moon. Spotify said it to be similar to Devon Allman. I checked out this new band and really liked what I heard. Last spring they released a new album just the right time, so I could review it right away.

Raspy and laid back

Delta Moon from Atlanta, Georgia, has during their career released already around ten albums – among them a few live recordings. The earliest album is from the year 2002. We are not speaking of a newcomer here. The music the boys make definitely doesn’t remind me of the doings of rascals either. The distinguishing elements are the singer-guitarist Tom Gray’s raspy, whispering singing and the rich slide guitar playing. From both of these the life lived can be heard through – so much so that I can’t help but think of Chris Rea. There is a distinct familiarity between the sounds of these two gentlemen.

The second original member of the group is the guitarist Mark Johnson. His guitar playing is also heavily leaning towards the slide. From videos on the internet I have noticed that during gigs one of the guitarists has a tube on his finger all the time. It also is not unheard of to see them both sliding at the same time. This is also present on the album. The bassist Franher Joseph and the drummer Marlon Patton make up for a group with a nice, laid back sound.

Of the twelve tracks of the album, nine are original. The main man behind the songs seems to Gray, the front man of the band. Musically presented are blues and its cousin southern rock. The latter however is not the same as southern rock that overpowers with a wall of guitars – it’s sliding more towards to the mellowness of the likes of Little Feat.

The opening track “Wrong Side Of Town” demonstrates that you can definitely rock without unnecessary smashing. The guitars work together nicely and leave space for each other. Next up is “Afterglow” which offers loaded New Orleans rhythm. The album definitely starts out promisingly, and there are no big disappointments later on either. One pinnacle of the album is “Open All Night”. With funny vocals and comping, the cousin of The Doors’ “Break On Through” classic of praising bars at night lets Gray play harmonica too.

I don’t remember hearing a single song named  “Jelly Roll” that I didn’t like. This is no different. This tremolo guitar, uptempo song takes you away by latest at the hollering. “Mean Streak” throws in more chords and is more distanced from blues than the rest of the material. If I had heard this song first without knowing the artist, I would’ve guessed it to be Chris Rea. To balance this, for example “Nothing You Can Tell A Fool” is pure blues, “Mayfly” rocks out without rioting and the double-sliding “Spark In The Dark” shifts into a higher gear.

There are three cover songs that have been chosen with care and without bowing to any idols. It is even natural, that “Lowdown” of Tom Waits is presented as mellower than the original. Also “Down In The Flood” is more straightened out from the versions of Bob Dylan and The Band. It’s as if the original dirt road was asphalted. Both of the songs fit right in with Delta Moon’s own material. Skip James’ “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” falls into a little unnecessary echoing and gimmicking, but is still definitely a good song. A good song is a good song – there is no point to do a cover by only mimicking the original.

I have spent a lot of time with this album and I can recommend it to others with no hesitation. Delta Moon doesn’t really offer anything new, but they sure know what to make from familiar ingredients. A fine skill for sure.

Some time ago Spotify suggested that I listen to a band called Swamp Cabbage, from which I found many similarities with Delta Moon. Maybe so, but in my opinion they sound more like a boogie trio from Texas. Let’s talk about this more on another time.

Delta Moon: Low Down. Jumping Jack Records, 2015

Tom Gray (vocals, lap steel, guitar, keyboard, harmonica), Mark Johnson (guitar, backing vocals), Franher Joseph (bass, backing vocals), Marlon Patton (drums, percussion)

Featuring: Anna Kramer (backing vocals), Francine Reed (backing vocals)

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