By Melanie Young
For over a decade, Delta Moon have been perfecting their distinctive sound, anchored around the paired slide guitars of founders Tom Gray and Mark Johnson. Low Down is their latest release, and it captures the Atlanta-based quartet at the height of their powers.
From start to finish, the interplay between the musicians — including drummer Marlon Patton and bassist Franher Joseph — is a pleasure to hear. Gray’s and Johnson’s guitars entwine elegantly on songs like “Wrong Side of Town”, “Afterglow”, “Jelly Roll” and “Mayfly”, then purr and growl on “Nothing You Can Tell a Fool” — which boasts a gorgeous riff reminiscent of Muddy Waters on “Can’t Be Satisfied” — and “Spark in the Dark”. Keyboards lend futuristic color to “Mean Streak”, while harmonica and guitar percolate in tandem on “Open All Night”.
Three well-chosen covers are mixed in with the nine originals. The title track, written by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, shimmies as seductively as its subject. Their version of Bob Dylan’s “Down in the Flood” roils darkly — “the meanest flood” isn’t coming, it’s already here, (Indeed, Gray’s breathy baritone brings to mind Dylan’s son, singer-songwriter Jakob Dylan.) “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” evokes the austerity of Skip James’ original, and Gray unspools a mournful Moog lap steel solo to stunning effect.
“What you find depends on what you’re looking for,” Gray observes on the sexy, yet foreboding “Jacky Ray”. If you’re looking for exquisite playing and fine songcraft, you’ll find it on Delta Moon’s Low Down.