Review of Cabbagetown in Don and Sheryl’s Blues Blog

Don and Sheryl’s Blues Blog



One of the really cool things about Atlanta-based blues quartet Delta Moon is the guitar tandem of Tom Gray and Mark Johnson, each of whom trade vocals and guitar parts throughout their latest set for Landslide Records,  “Cabbagetown.”  Franher Joseph is on bass, and Marlon Patton is on drums as the fellows romp thru nine originals and one really sweet cover of a mix of blues, roots, and even a touch of gospel.

The biography of many a rocker is laid out in the opening cut, “Rock And Roll Girl,” where “I tried to fit in, but I never really did,” so “I joined a rock and roll band!”  Mark is on lap steel on this one.  The age-old adage of “nothing beats a failure but a try” is the theme of The Coolest Fools,”  with those ultra-cool twin guitars doin’ their collective thing!  Society’s obsession with gadgetry and instant gratification is the story of the “21st Century Man,” while Marlon’s uptown funk backbeat puts a sho’ nuff new spin on Son House’s ol’ “Death Letter-now, how do you reckon that letter read?,” with well-placed harp from Jon Liebman.

We had two favorites, too.  Undoubtedly, the set’s most topical and powerful cut is “Refugee.”  A brooding, thunderous beat sets the backdrop for a series of spoken-word verses from the band members, as each boldly represents members of an oppressed society seeking safe haven  in a strange land.  And, just as sure as the sunrise promises the salvation of a new day, the lively instrumental, “Cabbagetown Shuffle,” is a refreshing blast of Delta-fied, old-time gospel, with Tom on Hawaiian guitar and Mark on slide.

Delta Moon won the IBC’s in 2003, and Tom Gray was named the American Roots Music Association Blues Songwriter of the Year in 2008.  Unique dual slide guitar arrangements and strong songwriting define “Cabbagetown” as a fine listen, indeed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

Review of Low Down in Blues Matters (UK)

Delta Moon

Low Down

By Steve Yourglivch

Delta Moon are a long established and well respected act on the American circuit and on this, their 10th album release, it’s easy to see why. With twin slide guitarists Tom Gray and Mark Johnson perfectly complementing each other across nine new original songs and three well-chosen covers and the rhythm section in the groove all the way this oozes class. Never too in your face, but everything in perfect harmony. The originals are all well written as one would expect from one time Blues Songwriter of the Year Tom Gray, who as well as slide provides lead vocals, keys and harp. Of the originals I personally prefer the slightly tougher edged tunes like “Mean Streak” and “Spark In The Dark”.The three covers are all highlights, title track “Lowdown” by Tom Waits, the ominous “Down In The Flood” by Dylan and the menacing “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” by Skip James all benefit from the Delta Moon treatment. The band show they are no one trick ponies throughout, never more so then on “Mayfly” a lovely up tempo piece of classic country rock and on “Open All Night” with it’s Bo Diddly undertones. All in all a highly recommended album for fans of well written and performed contemporary blues.

Review of Low Down in Downbeat (USA)


More Soulful Than Most

Delta Moon, Low Down

By Frank-John Hadley

The 10th album by this blues-rock band in Atlanta follows the game plan of previous efforts by sustaining a musical atmosphere of swampland sultriness. The potency of guitar work by Tom Gray and Mark Johnson remains strong, and their riffs are compellingly coherent. Gray sings nine equally impressive original songs in a sandpapered rasp that’s salve for the affective aches and urgencies acknowledged throughout his thoughtful lyrics. Their best album also shines for a memorable take on Skip James’ “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues.”




Review of Low Down in Keys and Chords (Belgium)

Keys and Chords (Follow this link for the original Dutch text.)


The dual slide guitar sound of Delta Moon brings the listener into the heart of the Deep South in the States. In 2008 the American Roots Music Association awarded Tom Gray (vocals, lap steel guitar and keyboard) best Blues Songwriter of the Year. Tom was born in Washington DC, but grew up in Virginia and Georgia also had a home on a farm in the mountains of North Carolina. By chance he met his buddy Mark Johnson (guitar and banjo) in a music store in Atlanta. They formed the duo Delta Moon. The band name was made up by Mark in life after a pilgrimage to the cabin of Muddy Waters, near Clarksdale, Mississippi. When the duo of Franher Joseph on bass and Darren Stanley on drums were added to the band, they played at many festivals around Atlanta and the South. They soon gathered a lot of local music awards, but only after winning in 2003 the International Blues Challenge in Memphis did they start touring extensively throughout Canada and Europe.

Last year the quartet promoted the successful albums “Life’s A Song – Live Volume One” and “Turn Around When Possible – Live Volume Two”, a diptych of recent concert recordings. Now Darren Stanley has been replaced on drums by Marion Patton. This handsome production was recorded by Jeff Bakos and Ruairi Kilcullen. The album Low Down contains nine original songs and three tracks of striking covers. How about Bob Dylan’s “Down In The Flood “, “Lowdown” by Tom Waits and “Hard Time Killing Blues”, of course by Skip James.

The opening song “Wrong Side Of Town” is a blues rocker where Johnson plays slide on his Electro-Spanish Rickenbacker guitar. Soon we leave this catchy melody and go to New Orleans with “Afterglow”. A taste of Muddy Waters mustard was brought to the slide work in the bluesy “Nothing You Can Tell A Fool”. The rhythm of the funky “Down In The Food” is like a wild goose chase for Johnson’s guitar riffs. The drum rhythm and Gray’s harp melody form the ideal base for the swinging “Open All Night”. Another treat is driving rock “Spark In The Dark” and the intimate and acoustic “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” where inevitably the deep Delta backwater is sung. Time for some pleasant tunes in the exciting and fun “Mayfly” and the tempo-driven blues rocker “Jelly Roll”. The funky grooves of “Jacky Ray” may act as perfect ending. Tom Gray has lost none of his serene and hoarse voice. As the slide guitars are prominent, so also are subdued drum beats and leading bass lines. Each song his own accent that’s just an added value in the concept.

Review of Low Down in The Groove (USA)

The Groove

Reviewed by John Mitchell

Atlanta’s Delta Moon won the IBC in 2003 and have produced a steady flow of albums ever since. In their first incarnation they had a female singer alongside main writer and singer Tom Gray and I must confess that I have missed out on their more recent releases, so this is the first CD I have heard from the band without a female vocalist. That places a lot on Tom’s shoulders, but with his world-weary voice, clever songs and multi-instrumental talents (Tom plays lap-steel, guitar, key-boards and harp) he more than copes.

Long-time colleague Mark Johnson is on slide guitar and backing vocals and his dueling with Tom’s lap-steel is very much at the centre of the Delta Moon sound. Completing the lineup are Franher Joseph on bass and b/v’s and Marlon Patton on drums. Anna Kramer and Francine Reed add backing vocals to five tracks. Tom wrote seven of the tracks, two more are by Tom, Mark and Franher together, and there are three covers.

Opener “Wrong Side Of Town” typifies the DM sound with the two guitars playing off each other, Tom’s gruff voice delivering his own lyrics about the girl seeking thrills ‘on the wrong side of the tracks’. “Afterglow” is one of the two collaborations between Tom, Mark and Franher, a rhythmic tune with a modified Bo Diddley beat and some nice picking; the second joint effort is “Mean Streak” which opens with some melodic organ filling out the sound beneath the guitars. The lush sound belies the lyrics which are distinctly black in spirit: “You got a mean streak, running through and through; I got a mean streak, I’m just as mean as you”. The rest of Tom’s songs offer a wide variety: the jaunty “Nothing You Can Tell A Fool” advises us that “you can tell if a man is lying by the way he turns his head” while the short rocker “Open All Night” has a bubbly bass line with more of the band’s trade-mark dual slide playing. “Spark In The Dark” has a great core riff and a memorable chorus where Tom declares that “then there’s you, the only one who lights me up like a spark in the dark, when you do what you do”. The positive and upbeat “Mayfly” is country-flavoured with Anna’s gentle vocal support on the chorus whereas “Jelly Roll” has more definite blues DNA in the ample serving of slide work from both men. Closing track “Jacky Ray” is brooding in tone with Tom doubling up on organ and lap-steel and Mark producing some menacing chords on electric slide.

The three songs that DM have chosen to cover come from the top echelons of writers though not all necessarily associated with blues. Dylan’s “Down In The Flood” was reinvented a few years ago by Derek Trucks and here DM take another angle on the tune with a slightly funky feel that is increased with Francine’s backing vocals. Tom Waits’ “Lowdown” rocks along nicely with Tom’s organ again providing warmth to the production as Mark’s slide weaves its magic across the track. A genuine bluesman is Skip James and his “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” is played in acoustic style with a gentle brush on drums and some ethereal slide set against plucked guitar, Tom’s voice suiting the sorry tale perfectly.

There is plenty to enjoy on this album which is definitely worth seeking out. Good to reconnect with Delta Moon!

Review of Low Down in Twelve Bar Rag (USA)

Delta Moon
Low Down

Twelve Bar Rag

Reviewed by “Southside” Paul Weigand

Delta Moon is one of those bands most people know of but don’t really know.

Did you know … Delta Moon won the IBC in 2003?

Tom Gray was named Blues Song Writer of the Year by The American Roots Music Association in 2008?

Tom Gray’s songs have been recorded by Cyndi Lauper (“Money Changes Everything”), Manfred Mann, Carlene Carter, Bonnie Bramlett, and many others?

Low Down is Delta Moon’s 10th CD?

End of history lesson. Let’s get current.

Delta Moon’s current lineup consists of Tom Gray on Lead Vocals, Lap Steel, Guitar, Keyboards and Harmonica. (He also wrote or cowrote 9 of the 12 tracks). Mark Johnson does Guitar and backing vocals, and Franher Joseph is doing Bass and backing vocals. Marlon Patton is on Drums and percussion. Tom and Mark have been partners in crime since the beginning after a chance meeting outside an Atlanta music store. Franher has been with them since 2007, they have a “new kid” on drums since the release of this disc.

“Nothing You Can Tell A Fool” is probably my favorite track though, the title says it all. We all have our moments where we need to listen to the people around us. But do we listen?Probably not! Great lyrics and music, and extremely soulful backing voice by Francine Reed. I think that is why I like this song just a bit better. What a voice!

“Open All Night” has a very bouncy rhythm and Great lyrics. ” Their back wall ain’t got no clock. Their front door ain’t got no lock..”. Tom plays some harp on this and it goes great with the slide in a jook joint kinda’ feel. These guys don’t mind taking turns with the lead and it works really well.

“Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” is an old Skip James song, (Google him if you’re not familiar, his voice was positively eerie!) They give this song a real Delta feel, but with a Delta Moon spin to it. I’m of the electric Blues school, but love to pay tribute to the roots. They do that quite well on this song. You can hear the Delta talking to you if you listen close.

I was fortunate enough to see Delta Moon just a couple of days before I wrote this. Great show and if you like the CDs, you’ll like it live even better. Their shows are about fun and the music. They played about half of Low Down as well as a mix of their other CDs. Good times!

Review of Low Down in Blues Biscuits (USA)

Blues Biscuits

By Jim Kanavy

Delta Moon

Low Down

Jumping Jack

Released on May 5, 2015

Tom Gray and Mark Johnson of Delta Moon met by chance many (delta) moons ago when Tom tried to sell a Dobro to Mark. Phone numbers were exchanged and soon the two were playing together all around Atlanta. The guitar interplay between Gray and Johnson is magical. After almost a dozen Delta Moon albums, the duo has cemented its place in guitar tandem history. It is rare for a band to have even one skilled slide guitarist but Delta Moon boasts two. Their styles seem to mesh effortlessly and the sum sounds larger than their individual parts. The music also benefits from Tom Gray’s voice which has a mellow whispery rasp which draws you in and makes you listen closely. He was the Roots Music Association’s 2008 Blues Songwriter of the Year so you may want to listen closely anyway. He has a knack for creating insidious hooks that dig deep into your consciousness the more you listen to them. The duo is joined in the band by bassist Franher Joseph and drummer Marion Patton. These two musicians could have been great engineers because they build perfect foundations for every song on Low Down.

Low Down starts with the steady chug and side-winding slide of “Wrong Side Of Town.” “Spark In the Dark” is a fitting title to this energetic tune. It has a driving beat, terse chords, and greasy slide. These guys get incredibly warm tones from their instruments and amps, and the loping stand-up bass in songs like “Nothing You Can Tell A Fool” creates a stomping on the floor boards kind of low end you don’t hear much anymore. I must really hate Tom Waits’ voice because I can’t listen to him, but when I often love his songs when done by others. Delta Moon’s cover of “LowDown” is one of those great covers. The amusing wordplay in the song is perfect for this band and their style and feel makes it pure Delta Moon. If there is a complaint to be made about Low Down it’s this: it’s almost too mellow. It’s relaxing. This is Monday through Thursday Blues. When Friday and Saturday night come around you’ll probably want something more rambunctious and if all goes well, on Sunday you’ll have some explaining to do. At least you can feel sure when Monday night comes around again you can relax on the porch with a tall glass of lemonade or sweet tea and fall into the friendly Low Down groove of a Delta Moon.

Review of Low Down in Dirty Rock (Spain)

Delta Moon Returns with New Album Low Down

By Ángel Manuel Hernández Montes

Dirty Rock (Follow this link for the original Spanish text.)

Delta Moon has reappeared on the music scene with a brand new studio album, Low Down, led by Tom Gray on lap steel guitar, harmonica and lead vocals and Mark Johnson on guitar and vocals. The band has persevered in work that provides the most exquisite swamp blues rock personified, thanks to “slide guitar” executed by Tom Gray with his particular way of playing the guitar that marks the musical style of Delta Moon. Franher Joseph on bass and vocals and Marlon Patton on drums have accompanied the guitar tandem Gray-Johnson on twelve songs on which one feels continuity through the resurgence of the Mississippi roots sounds, prolonging the legacy of their first album in 2002 .

Delta Moon thirteen years later is still betting on doing what they really feel, what they like, and getting their own hallmark sound. Besides their own compositions prevailing in the work they have included cover versions of Tom Waits’ “Lowdown,” Bob Dylan’s “Down In The Flood” and Skip James’ “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues”, subtly taking them to their own land without leaving the essence of the original composition. Medium tempo, uninhibited and happy songs are the key to this work which is kept alive at all times by the substance of sounds originating in the delta.

With Low Down Delta Moon revitalizes their musical career, consolidating their personal style that is enhanced when climbing on stage. Their next date in our country will be in the Festival Enclave de Agua held during the days July 23, 24 and 25 in Soria.

Review of Low Down in BluesNews (Russia)

Delta Moon “Low Down” 2015

BluesNews (Click here for the original Russian text.)

By Oleg Pavlov

As you are aware, the hallmark of the group is a game of TWO slide guitarists, the founding members from Atlanta, Georgia – Tom Gray and Mark Johnson. Playing together for over 10 years, they have received rave reviews, public acclaim and many awards in the blues genre. “Warm mixture of blues-rock, country, and radio hits,” “This music lives and breathes,” “honest and natural music”, “as long as there are such groups, there is no reason to worry for the future of the blues” — such epithets have been awarded them by the music press.

The album has 12 songs. Nine of them are original, written by Tom Gray. And three great, in my opinion, covers — “Down In The Flood” by Bob Dylan, “Lowdown” by Tom Waits and” Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” by Skip James.

Tom Gray himself sings on the album. He has a soft, serene, slightly husky voice — one more trump card for the team — and with pleasant emotions makes a trustworthy narrator.

The first track, “Wrong Side Of Town,” sets the lyrical tone of the album: “Don’t you get these people wrong. Some will kill you for a dollar. Some will love you for a song.” Through all the sounds there lingers the party slide guitar, with a solo in the middle of the song, continuing its own conversation rather than the subject of the narrator.

The album continues in this spirit. Each song has its own accents or swinging groove, but on the whole meets the concept reflected in the title, one of the meanings of the phrase “low down” — zaduschevny, from the heart. I think the album could be considered to be the best release of the first half of 2015.

11.05.15 Oleg Pavlov for BN