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Review of Cabbagetown in Keys and Chords (Belgium)

Keys and Chords (For the original Dutch text click here.)

Delta Moon – Cabbagetown

By Philip Verhaege (4 ½)

Delta Moon confirmed again and again. The slide guitar has the upper hand and goes perfectly with the acoustic strings, pounding drums and rough voice.

The album “Cabbagetown” is the new project of the Atlanta-based blues and roots-rock band Delta Moon. It is the eighth release and the successor to the powerful and award-winning ‘Low Down’ from 2015. Besides Son House’s “Death Letter” all the other songs are original compositions. After a long and very successful tour in Europe last year the band plunged into Marlon Patton’s home studio. Delta Moon — Tom Gray (vocals, lap steel guitar, keyboards, harmonica), Mark Johnson (guitar, banjo, backing vocals), Franher Joseph (bass, backing vocals) and drummer Marlon Patton — won the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2003. Since then, the band has worked hard. The release opens with the autobiographical rocker song “Rock And Roll Girl”. The hypnotic guitar riffs are directly supported by the typical lap steel, ehe trademark of the group. The acoustic-driven groove of “The Day Before Tomorrow” even has an alt-country abandon. The mandolin and lap steel arrangements of “Just Lucky I Guess” bring us to the love song “Coolest Fools”. The modern “Refugee” is a map of the world problems. After the refugees Gray gets behind the keys, driving “Mad About You” and the swampy beats of “Death Letter”. The Delta shuffle ’21st Century Man’ gives us a satirical look. But it gets really fun with the inspired “Cabbagetown Shuffle”. The bottleneck slide guitar and a southern-sounding steel guitar are the perfect duo. The closing “Sing Together” again enjoy the shimmering slide guitar and pounding drumbeats. Looking good!

Review of Cabbagetown by Smoky Mountain Blues Society

Delta Moon – Cabbagetown

CD Review – March 2017

Blue Barry – Smoky Mountain Blues Society

Following up on their blues award winning CD “Low Down,” Delta Moon has another thriller out, their eighth CD, “Cabbagetown.”  It just follows right in the steps of “Low Down.”  This four-piece Atlanta based blues group has toured the United States, Canada and just finished a European tour.  They won the 2003 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, and have been touring ever since.  With two slide players you might  think they would get in each others way.  Not the case.  Tom Gray; vocals, lap steel, guitar, keys, and harmonica, works perfectly with Mark Johnson on guitar, banjo, backing vocals and bottleneck guitar.  “Cabbagetown Shuffle,” is proof of that.  Tom wrote fours songs, he and the band wrote all of the rest, except for Son House’s “Death Letter Blues.”   Their rendition of this old classic is wonderful with Jon Liebman adding some great harmonica.  Their previous release “Low Down,” won the best blues record of the year by both Downbeat and Blues Music Magazine.  I have seen them several times, and they are just killer.  With Franher Joseph on bass and backing vocals, and Marion Patton on drums this band brings the Delta to your home.  Beautiful slide licks, long, soft, slippery and not too much.  Great vocals, with a little salt and mud.  You can hear every instrument.  It’s just flat out good music.  If you are a slide player you want to hear this.  You will get lots of ideas from it.  Why not go to www.deltamoon.com and see for yourself.  You can also find examples on you tube.  They have even been featured on television shows such as Showtime, Lifetime, and the Food Network!  A veteran, well-traveled blues band, that knows what they are doing.  I highly recommend this CD.  Give them a listen.  If you haven’t seen them, start looking for them near your town.  One of my favorite groups.  One love, blue barry – smoky mountain blues society.

Review of Cabbagetown in Professor Johnny P’s Juke Joint

Professor Johnny P’s Juke Joint

Delta Moon — Cabbagetown

The Atlanta quartet that goes by the poetic name,Delta Moon, has been playing together for a number of years. While they have crisscrossed the country, and taken Europe by storm (they’ll be there until early May, before returning to the States), they’ve also found time to record its eighth studio album. Cabbagetown is a worthy follow up to the 2015 release Low Down and the mix of serious blues with gritty rock should make this title a favorite.

The four musicians who make up Delta Moon are Tom Gray on vocals, lap steel guitar, guitar, keyboards, and he even plays harp on one song; Mark Johnson also supplies vocals as well as guitar, mandoguitar, and lap steel guitar on the first song; Franher Joseph adds vocals as well as bass and upright bass; and Marlon Patton plays drums and percussion. Special guests include Jon Liebman on harp for one song and backing vocals from Kyshona Armstrong and Susannah Masarie.

In addition, Gray writes four songs solo and co-writes another five with all of the members of the band.  There is one cover which we will get to shortly.

First up is Rock And Roll Girl, an autobiographical song of the hold music can have on us. For many, we are content to watch from the audience, but others are driven to pick up instruments, learn how to play them, and the life takes them out on the road. It’s a fun song with some country blues overtones laid over a rock beat. I like the sound, the energy is manic, but be prepared, Delta Moon will not be shoehorned into one category exclusively.

They follow up with The Day Before Tomorrow, a philosophical song with what I believe is Gray’s raspy voice delivering a solid performance over some very good guitar licks. Again, it’s not necessarily everyone’s idea of the blues, but the song has a solid base and the rock is very much roots oriented. It’s stripped down and really delivers.

Just Lucky I Guess is much more in the traditional blues vein. Steel guitars and a steady drum beat bring us in to the world of the song. I like the lyrics a lot and the song will be getting airplay on Time For The Blues as well as most every other blues show around.  They follow up with another quick song with a solid beat, Coolest Fools. It’s a good pairing of these songs together. Both are crowd pleasers with some good guitar work.

Delta Moon gets a little political with Refugee. Political in the sense of a social conscience. They explore the lives of several different refugees from all over the world. It’s a powerful song and the first that is credited to all four of the members of the band. It’s hard to listen to this song and not be moved by the plight of so many people.

The mood lightens considerably on Mad About You. The song is much more rock based, it has that feel of “California Cool” about it, but it is infinitely likeable and I caught a couple of blues purists nodding their head to the beat. That’s one great thing about Delta Moon, they can belt the blues with the best of ‘em, but they don’t shy away from exploring other sounds. This is a good example of that philosophy.

Son House’s Death Letter is the longest cut on the album, clocking in at just about six minutes while all the others fit comfortably in the three-and-a-half-minute neighborhood. For my money, it’s the best song on the album. They capture the pain in House’s classic and still manage to put their own stamp on it. While I tend to shy away from putting most longer songs on the show, I have no problem finding space for this one. It’s a great cover.

I like the song, 21st Century Man, a lot but I won’t be able to play it on the show as it contains one four-letter word that the FCC frowns on going out over the airwaves. Still, if you get this album, give it a listen as the lyrics are very strong and the song has a crazy beat to it. I would never consider censoring an artist’s right to free expression, but there are rules by which we have to abide. It’s brief and an integral part of the rhyme scheme. Just listen to it and make up your own mind. Personally, I liked the song…

The follow up with the instrumental Cabbagetown Shuffle. Apparently, the band began referring to the studio where they were recording the album as “Cabbagetown” due to the high number of vegetarian meals that they consumed during the process. For myself, I have no problems with vegetarians, hell, I’ve been known to consume my fair share as well. If that was the starting point for this lively number, I hope more artists will feast on those same vegetables.

They close the album with Sing Together, a small lesson in shared humanity. Why is it, even with common ancestry, we just can’t seem to get along. Maybe it’s just as simple as coming together and lifting our voices in song. It’s a great song to pair with Refugee, showing the darkest points of humanity with the light that just might get us through.

Delta Moon is a hard-working rocking blues band. You don’t get this good by just practicing in your garage once a week. They are constantly out on the road. If you take a look at their schedule on their website: http://deltamoon.com/ , you’ll see that they are all over the place. As of this writing they are touring Europe but should be back in time for the major festivals.

I even see one in North Carolina, so it may be time for a little road trip to check them out personally. If I get to do it, I’ll be sure to send you a report on how they do live.

In the meantime, please keep supporting blues and roots music and any live show that you come across. The world needs the music, and so do our souls.

Advance Praise for “Cabbagetown” – No Depression

No Depression

Take a scenic trip with Delta Moon to Cabbagetown

By Rick J Bowen

DELTA MOON – CABBAGETOWN – Jumping Jack Records 

Atlanta’s sultans of slide guitar; the blues and roots rock quartet Delta Moon return with their eighth studio album Cabbagetown, released March 17, 2017, on Jumping Jack Records. The follow-up to the award-winning 2015 release, Low Down, named one of the best blues records of the year by both Downbeat and Blues Music Magazine.  The new album features nine original compositions and a lively cover of Son House’s timeless classic, “Death Letter“.

Award-winning songwriter and lead vocalist Tom Gray once again penned most of the new Delta Moon tracks, showcasing great grooves, thought provoking lyrics, infectious hooks, sweet slide guitar work and mountains of superb tone created at the legendary Bakos Amp Works.

The opening track “Rock and Roll Girl“, is an autobiography of roots rock dreams with a Springsteen like appeal. The free flowing acoustic driven groove of “The Day Before Tomorrow,” has an ultra-optimistic sensibility and alt country flair. Franher Joseph moves to Upright Bass for the mostly acoustic introspective tome “Just Lucky I Guess,” and Gray picks some sublime lap steel guitar on the happy go lucky love song “Coolest Fools.” Delta Moon are not ones to shy away from hot topics, taking on the viewpoint of the silent victims of the world’s problems on the provocative track “Refugee” recanting their plight in multi voiced narratives over a soulful groove. Gray switches to electric piano for the driving “Mad About You, “and drummer Marlon Patton lays down a phat hip hop beat to open the ultra-modern reading of “Death Letter,” with Jon Liebman adding greasy Blues Harmonica, sparring with Gray’s lap steel. Another deep groove is at the center of Gray’s satirical look at our gadget obsessed world on “21st Century Man,” while the back-porch blues that inspired the album title “Cabbagetown Shuffle,” is a lively duel between Gray on Hawaiian guitar and Mark Johnson on Bottleneck slide. Gray leaves us with a lesson about our shared humanity on the gently rocking “Sing Together,” with Johnson preaching to the choir with more of his glistening slide guitar.

Pre-order the New Album

Delta Moon’s new album, CABBAGETOWN, features the band’s signature dual slide guitar sound, but with some new sonic twists. These songs explore fresh territory, inspired by people and scenes the band has experienced at home and in their travels. Five-time Grammy winner Susan Archie is doing the artwork. International distribution is already set up. But to get this music out of the studio and into the world we need your help.

Through PledgeMusic you can pre-order CABBAGETOWN and get the inside track on exclusive information, videos and merchandise not available anywhere else.

Ten percent of any money raised beyond our goal will go to the Music Maker Relief Foundation, which was founded to preserve the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who make it, ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty or time.

To all our supporters, a big thank you, and please tell a friend.

Low Down Review in Blues Music Magazine (USA)

Blues Music Magazine

Delta Moon

Low Down

By Rev. Keith A. Gordon

Formed by singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Tom Gray and guitarist Mark Johnson, Delta Moon won the International Blues Challenge in 2003, and they’ve since released ten critically acclaimed studio and live albums. Low Down is the latest in a string of artfully-crafted roots ‘n’ blues collections, and the follow-up to the band’s 2012 album Black Cat Oil. With nine Gray originals or co-writes and three choice covers, Low Down takes the next step towards cementing Delta Moon’s legacy as one of America’s best roots-rock outfits.

The band’s basic sound doesn’t vary much from album to album – it’s all a heady musical gumbo of rock, blues, and soul with heavy Delta influences. Gray simply adds a few new ingredients to the stew each time around, such as with “Afterglow,” which mixes New Orleans-styled marching band drums with drawled, gruff vocals and stinging blues guitar. Gray’s rough-hewn vocals growl and snarl their way through “Mean Streak,” mixing a bit of Memphis soul with a Southern rock vibe, while the up-tempo “Open All Night” blends 1970s-era rock with exotic percussion. The Tom Waits-penned title track is dirtied up with some Mississippi mud, Gray’s serpentine lap steel adding a welcome twang to the song’s foot-shuffling arrangement.

An inspired cover of Dylan’s “Down In The Flood” is provided the full Delta treatment with a groove so languid that you can feel the kudzu hanging from every word. Gray’s interpretation of Skip James’ classic “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” is both faithful to the traditional, yet so radically adventuresome that it’s hard to know where to start. The original’s hypnotizing guitar line is slowed down and enhanced, provided a Piedmont blues similarity while a weeping background guitar enhances Gray’s breathless vocals. It’s a phenomenal performance of a familiar and frequently recorded song, but Delta Moon manages to imbue James’ original take with additional pathos and menace. As shown by Low Down, it’s Delta Moon’s ability to connect with a song’s heart – whether an original composition or a cover – that puts them in a league with better-known fellow travelers like Watermelon Slim and the Workers and the Nighthawks.

Review of Low Down in Blues Society of Tulsa Newsletter

Blues Society of Tulsa

Delta Moon

Low Down

(Jumping Jack Records)

Delta Moon front man Tom Gray has been blessed with one of those gravely blues voices that truly accentuates his fine songwriting and melodies. Add to this his talent on guitar, lap steel, keyboards and harmonica and he is such a well-rounded artist. Low Down features nine original tunes starting off with “Wrong Side of Town” taking this album off to a blues-rocking start. The rest of Delta Moon certainly does their part with Mark Johnson, guitar, Franher Joseph, bass and Marlon Patton, drums and percussion. The band’s version of Tom Waits’ “Lowdown” is a perfect fit. This is a very good album.

Billy Austin

Interview with Mark Johnson in Twelve Bar Rag

Twelve Bar Rag

Suncoast Blues Society

The Blues Stalker

By Monte Adkison

MoonStruck (again!!!)

From the minute that I slipped Low Down in my CD player and instantly recognized Tom Gray’s distinctive intoxicating vocals, I realized just how much I had missed listening to one of my favorite bands, Delta Moon. Their new release reacquainted me with this Atlanta-based group that I became a fan of over ten years ago. Their debut release was in 2002 and they won the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge in 2003. A rotating cast over the years has now evolved into the current mix of excellent songwriting, seductive vocals, compact grooves, mesmerizing guitar work and a triumphant combination of talent. As the rave reviews of their latest effort continue to roll in, I caught up with band mate Mark Johnson just as they were preparing to leave for another European tour.

BS:    Please introduce the members of Delta Moon to those that have not had the pleasure yet.

DM:    Tom Gray – lead vocals, lap steel guitar.
Mark Johnson – backing vocals, bottleneck guitar.
Franher Joseph – backing vocals, bass.
Vic Stafford – drums.

BS:    Low Down  is your tenth CD?

DM:    Yes, our 10th CD sounds about right!

BS:    Delta Moon’s music can’t be fit into one category — you do roots, blues rock, down-home Delta, and many other styles. How would you describe your sound to those that are unfamiliar with it?

DM:    We call our sound two slide guitars, a groove and a voice. It is very blues-based but in a contemporary way. We like all kinds of music and get influences from everywhere. But the stuff we really like is soulful roots music, especially the more primitive stuff.

BS:    On Low Down, nine of the twelve songs are originals. How does Tom Gray, the award-winning songwriter, keep getting inspiration for such great numbers? Do you get together to write the two guitar parts or are you guys just so connected that it flows naturally? Tell me about that process.

DM:    Tom often brings in a song in a very basic form. Then he and I will jam on it until it sounds like Delta Moon. I will often introduce a riff that works well with what he has. Sometimes I will send him an idea and a song will come from that. Less often, something will come from a studio session where the entire band is present.

BS:    As an amazing tandem of guitarists, how do you manage to complement, rather than compete as often happens in groups with two equally talented guitarists?

DM:    We are from the Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac school – two guitars working well together can be a massive sound, if you stay of each other’s way, listen and complement.

BS:    Can fans keep up with you on social media — Facebook, Twitter, blogs?

DM:    Yes, fans can easily reach us through all the social media sites at www.deltamoon.com.

BS:    You utilized one of my favorite and I feel, underappreciated female vocalists — Francine Reed, on this disc. How did this collaboration occur?

DM:    Francine is awesome. She sang on another record of ours, Hell Bound Train, and really sounded great. Everyone loves Francine. She has a great voice and is really fun to work with — very fast and professional as well.

BS:    Mark, I know you’re into gear. For the gear heads out there, can you and Tom describe your favorite instruments? Are they custom?

DM:    I use mostly Jerry Jones guitars, Danelectro reissues made in Nashville, now no longer being made. Tom plays Stratotones from the ’50s. But we have hundreds of instruments, way too many to count.

BS:    Juke joints, festivals, small clubs, European, Canadian, and American audiences — Do you have any personal favorites where the magic always seems to happen?

DM:    Lots of places. The Bradfordville Blues Club, one of my all time favorite places to play. Another place in Bavaria called the Village, Germany’s version of a juke joint. It is run by a guy named Dieter who builds telecasters as well. Just a cool, crazy place. There are so many places really That is my joy in playing music — traveling around the world and seeing so many places and meeting so many different people. We have played a lot of really cool festivals as well, like the Montreal Jazz Festival and Kitchener Blues Festival.

BS:    Originally Delta Moon featured a strong female lead singer. Currently female vocalists are used as backup vocalists and on duets. Do you feel this shift has allowed the dual signature guitar work to be showcased and appreciated more?

DM:    It’s been over ten years since we have had a female vocalist. Since Tom has become the front man, it has allowed the band’s sound to become more focused which has led to greater success.

BS:    Low Down is going to be a hard act to follow, but I have thought that about some of your previous issues. Any new projects in the works?

DM:    Low Down has been number 2 or 3 on the Roots Music Report Contemporary Blues Chart for seven weeks now; we are really pleased with the response to the recording. But we plan to top it and we are starting work on the next recording when we return from Europe.

BS:    Releases on vinyl, streaming music services, social media publicity, technology — care to reflect on the current state of the ever-changing music industry?

DM:    I love it. There are so many ways to bring your music to your fans around the world in general. I just try to view it with open eyes, enjoy myself and stay focused. If your product is good, you will eventually be successful; you just need to decide what success means! For me, it means traveling the world playing my guitar.

Greetings from Sicily!

This last European tour was a blast! The crowds were so enthusiastic. We have done this so much now, we know what to expect. We give it to them and they give it right back, and then interaction between the band and audience begins. We throw a big mutual party. The folks and Spain and Italy are so nice and hospitable to us. And this time we went to Poland and it was great. I a really looking forward to returning in February 2016.

This is a group that electrifies a room during a live show. The counterplay and interaction of the band mates and apparent joy in the music that they create is infectious and best experienced up close and personal. Don’t miss them next time they are in your area. After recent performances in the Bay area, Suncoast Blues Society fans can testify to that fact.

The Blues Stalker

Interview with Tom Gray in Concerto (Austria)

Concerto

(Translated from German.)

Vienna Blues Festival Spring Revisited

Concerto1

“A voice, a groove and two slide guitars.” So Delta Moon characterizes their sound. And this is undoubtedly unusual in today’s Blues scene. One slide guitar, yes. But two? Even more so when one of the guitarists, Tom Gray, prefers to play lap steel? When Tom Gray and Mark Johnson decided to make a common musical project, both already had solid experience in the business. Johnson’s uncle owned a record store, and Mark started playing guitar in high school. The early nineties he came to Atlanta and focused increasingly on the bottleneck style. It was he who made Tom Gray familiar with the many shades of blues. The latter had already made a name not only with his rock band but also as a songwriter — a parallel to Earl Thomas. Among others, he wrote for Manfred Mann, Carlene Carter, Bonnie Bramlett and for Cyndi Lauper, whose hit “Money Changes Everything” he wrote. In 2003 eventually came the professional launch of Delta Moon. The band — then still with a female singer — entered the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis and won the prestigious competition.

Concerto2

“Songwriting Is My Livelihood.” – Tom Gray

When did Delta Moon form?

It was in the nineties. There is no fixed date. It was a gradual process. Mark and I jammed together now and then, and at some point he suggested we play at a coffee house on the corner. We started as a trio with a singer, then we added percussion, drums and bass, and we started to play in clubs. It was great fun, but we didn’t take it all too seriously, until about the beginning of the 2000s. After we won the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2003, the tours really got going. In 2004 the singer left us. We hired a new vocalist, but she left a year later. So I decided to take over the vocals myself.

How did you meet Mark?

At a music store of an acquaintance. I wanted to sell an old Dobro from the 1930s. The owner said he could not pay me much for the guitar, but I should try a guy who was also there in the store. And he pointed to Mark (laughs) who at first was interested, but then not. (laughs)

Before that you were working a long time as a musician. How did you start?
I started as a teenager in high school, playing in bands at parties of friends, in the church, in dance bands, and then I started earning money with it. In the late seventies I had a rock band, The Brains, for which I wrote all the material. We made some albums for Mercury Records.

Then why did you switch to the Blues?

This is hard to explain. I love the slide guitar, the lap steel. This instrument is often associated with Hawaii, but there is much of it in Blues. Mark comes from the classic bottleneck style. We got together, jamming, swapping licks, and that was actually the starting point of the band. At one time I was working in Nashville in the country scene. I rummaged in a shop for vintage guitars, and they had a back room full of lap steel guitars. I needed such an instrument for the project I was working on. So I slept on it overnight, went back the next morning and bought an exquisite lap steel, which, incidentally, I still own today, and began to learn to play. In the Blues I was inspired by Elmore James, Muddy Waters and especially Blind Willie Johnson and Mississippi Fred McDowell. Mark introduced me to countless other influences, since he was already deep into the Blues at home. He came from Ohio to Georgia. In the American South people from the North have the reputation of being somewhat rude. And in fact, Mark had at that time a band called “The Rude Northerners”! (laughs)

Did the IBC influence your career?

Certainly! It made our name known. The reputation of having won the IBC is a big deal. That year we got an invitation to the Montreal Jazz Festival and performed in England for the first time. Then we played at a festival in Italy, and it turned out that the founding meeting of the European Blues Union was held at the same hotel we stayed in. This led to appearances in Scandinavia, etc.

And what about with the club scene in the States?

Earlier you could work in the clubs for the whole week. Today it is reduced mainly to Friday and Saturday. So you try to work in the area near where you live, because the money does not allow you to sit around the rest of the week in a hotel room. You usually must drive home again after the gigs. In Europe, it’s a little easier to put together tours for several weeks. The times when you could travel for four or five weeks playing clubs in the States are over. This band has never experienced these times.

How would you define your style?

Our style reflects great respect for the traditional blues. At the same time we have found a lot of influences from our personal experiences, our life. Blues must be truthful. Merely copying other musicians, even great historical models, is not enough. Otherwise you will never come to your own sound. The fact that we use two slide guitars naturally contributes to our originality.

What does the Blues mean to you personally?

Blues for me is the foundation of the American music of the past 100 years, rock-and-roll, jazz, etc. A beautiful aspect of this is that we all go to the source and make it our own. The music can stay fresh.

You’ve written a lot of songs for other artists. How important is songwriting to you?

Without songwriting I would not be here, I would not be able to be on stage. Songwriting is my livelihood! It is something like my “day job”, but I love it, too. The inspiration for a song is a wonderful thing, even if it is not always there. I think it was the writer Somerset Maugham who, when asked whether he wrote by set schedule or waited for inspiration, said: “I wait for inspiration, and fortunately it strikes every morning at nine clock.” (Laughs) That’s how I feel about songwriting. It is work.

 How does the new album differ from the previous?

Low Down is rockier. Before the penultimate album I had cancer, spent a long time in hospital, then for a while had to sit onstage, and so the songs I wrote were rather introspective. But now I’m back on my feet, and we wanted to rock again.

Can one still make money with records?

I’m still trying to figure that out! (Laughs)

 

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