Delta Moon’s exceptional lyricism
By Doug Hill
Artist: Delta Moon
Album: “Low Down”
Tom Gray is the lead vocalist and lap steel guitarist for Atlanta-based Delta Moon. He founded the quartet with guitarist Mark Johnson after the pair met by coincidence several years ago in a music shop. Franher Joseph plays bass and Marion Patton is on drums. Low Down is Delta Moon’s 10th album since the turn of the century. Although the musicianship is fine as frog hair, the lyrics pop out as being exceptional. Gray has honed his song writing skills over decades. Although a blues man now, back in the 1980s he led rock outfit The Brains that was signed to Mercury Records for a couple of albums. Gray’s “Money Changes Everything” was covered by Cyndi Lauper. It became an MTV hit back when she was wearing mismatched sneakers and girls were jumping on stage for a hug. Today Gray still writes about dead presidents. In “Wrong Side of Town” he sings, “Some will kill you for a dollar/ Some will love you for a song.” The lyrics are addressed to someone he calls honey who left a tough neighborhood, is rolling in dough now but comes back occasionally to party. It’s the album’s first track and the initial unblinking glimpse into an often shadowy world. “Afterglow” includes distorted vocals in a dream sequence. It’s a song that pairs train imagery with what may be the scent of high-end cosmetics in a tale of lost love. Gray pays homage to one of Americana’s most celebrated lyricists by covering Tom Waits/ Kathleen Brennan in the title track. “Low Down” is about a woman who is irresistible in a variety of ways but also bad to the bone. “She’s a big red flag in a mean bull pen/ She’ll steal it from you and sell it right back to you again,” Gray sings in a low, slow drawl. There are also Bob Dylan (Down in the Flood) and Skip James (Hard Time Killing Floor Blues) covers but the remaining nine cuts are originals. “Spark in the Dark” reflects back to Gray’s rock n roll days. It slides into a slow burn, lit-up by Johnson’s guitar. “Mayfly” has a similar rock tempo. Gray cozies his vocals up to back-up singer Anna Kramer’s for an upbeat vibe. It’s basically a confection alongside the grittier numbers. Low Down finds Delta Moon high and full.