Delta Moon – Cabbagetown
Format: CD / Label: Jumping Jack Records
Release date: March 17, 2017
Text: Fons Delemarre
Everyone who doesn’t appreciate the slide guitar, can skip the music of the American band Delta Moon, including the new CD ‘Cabbagetown’, without any hesitation. Apart from a drummer (Vic Stafford) [NOTE: the drummer is actually Marlon Patton] and a bass player (Franher Joseph), there are two (2!) slide guitar players in Delta Moon; Tom Gray and Mark Johnson. In the words of their label:
“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.”
Which is completely accurate.
‘Cabbagetown’ consists of music with a flowing groove, with a skillful and economical instrumentation. Delta Moon proves once again how effective it can be to let the power of the music speak for itself by embracing self imposed restrictions. Of course it’s not only the slide that is featured, but that distinctive sliding sound remains the trademark of this band. Furthermore the raspy voice of Tom Gray provides a recognizable sound that colors the overall character of the band. On the surface ‘Cabbagetown’ does not appear to be very distinctive from solid albums as ‘Black Cat Oil’ (2012) and ‘Low Down’ (2015), although the album has been infused with a bit more of a rock vibe. You can’t fault ‘Cabbagetown’ with the ten new tracks by Delta Moon. Most songs pertain lovelike affairs (Just Lucky I Guess, Coolest Fools, Mad About You). However, it’s hardly believable to hear a man of a ‘certain’ age sing about those ‘one night stands’ with his ‘Rock and Roll Girl”.
According to the band it’s an “…autobiography of roots-rock dreams with a Springsteen like appeal”. Whatever rocks your boat I guess… It has to be said the opening track is actually quite pleasant. When you arrive at ‘Refugee’ the mood changes abruptly. This song is an indictment against the situation of all refugees in the world. A dark etched male voice proclaims “In this whole wide world we got nowhere to be, so we keep walking, my family and me”. The female voice adds: “It’s me, Ashja, I’ve come here on a boat, full of so many people, it could barely float. I’ve been raped and beaten…”. It’s not only the title of this particular track that reminds you of the Tom Petty song ‘Refugee’. With just a little bit of imagination you could see Petty and his Heartbreakers play this very same song. Without any doubt the most impressive track on this album. The only cover consists of a very unique approach to Death Letter by Son House. This is another song where the low-pitched speaking voice of Franher Joseph is really comes into its own.
In our travels last year through Spain, Germany, Italy and eastern Europe we saw a lot of migrants tramping along the roadside, begging and busking in city streets, or camping by fences with nowhere left to go. According to the United Nations, 65 million refugees are wandering the world today, displaced by war, overpopulation and climate change. That’s a lot of people — more than the combined populations of New York and California.
All of us in Delta Moon were affected by what we saw on that trip. When we returned to America Mark wanted to write a song called “Refugee” over a guitar lick he had come up with. The band came up with a chanted chorus and three verses, each in the voice of a particular person we had seen or heard about. (“Issme” is Arabic for “my name is…”) We decided that Franher and I would each speak a verse, and then our friend Kyshona Armstrong came in to deliver the female verse. She also volunteered some harmonies and powerful wailing at the end.
This is an unusual song for Delta Moon, but it’s one we all feel strongly about. When I posted it to YouTube last night the video got its first thumbs down before the tenth view. Voting has continued at roughly four positive for every negative, with a very high ratio of reactions. Everyone seems to feel strongly about it, one way or the other.
Please let us know what you think.
Mark’s Signature Ceramic Slide is a custom Shavano in midnight black with a triple color tip. Inner diameter is 19mm. Length is 62mm. It weighs in at about 2.5 ounces.
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.
By Peter Merrett
PBS106.7 Melbourne, Australia
* DELTA MOON. “Cabbagetown”.
*Label: Jumping Jack Records.
* Tom Gray : Vocals, Lap Steel Guitar, Guitar, Keyboards, Harmonica on track 9.
* Mark Johnson : Vocals, Mandoguitar, Lap Steel on track 1.
* Franher Joseph : Vocals, Bass, Upright Bass on tracks 3 & 9.
* Marlon Patton : Drums, Percussion.
* Kyshona Armstrong : Vocals on tracks 1, 2, 5, 10.
* Susannah Masarie : Vocals on tracks 1, 2, 4.
* Jon Liebman : Harmonica on track 7.
*** Track 1. – “Rock And Roll Girl” Written by Tom Gray.
Man oh man after the success of the stunning “Low Down” album of 2015 it is just so good to have the guys back. Wonderful Rock & Roll intro infused with Johnson’s lap steel guitar. Gray’s raspy voice has certainly matured into a very distinctive tone that is more than pleasing to hear. Armstrong and Masarie provide the wonderful chorusing background vocals. Potent Atlanta style rockin’ Blues.
*** Track 2. – “The Day Before Tomorrow” Written by Tom Gray.
Continuing in that rock vein of track one this acoustic offering certainly moves along and again Johnson’s lap steel shines. For me the last album established the fact that there are very few bands that are as forceful and creative with the lap steel guitar. Throughout the rhythm section of Joseph and Patton shine as they provide the drive and groove for the band. As for track 1 Armstrong and Masarie again provide the background singing. Another stunning original that has a live feel about it. Brilliant performance and song writing.
*** Track 3. – “Just Lucky I Guess” Written by Tom Gray.
Slowing down the tempo but not the intensity this ballad is absolutely stunning and displays how all of the elements that make up Delta Moon come together. The tonality of the guitar is sublime as Gray vocalises throughout with his gritty sinuous trademark voice. This certainly is an amazing song that not only sounds great but feels the same way also. Quite a standout track from all members of Delta Moon. This is why we Blues hounds love this group so much.
*** Track 4. – “Coolest Fools” Written by Tom Gray.
Southern Blues/Rock that just moves along in the tradition of the great Atlanta groups. Again the trademark guitar sound is sublime but somewhat more subtle than previous tracks but still packs enough of a punch to let you know just who you are listening to. Grays vocals establish the story and carry the song perfectly as the band are stunning from top to bottom. Masarie provides the background voice on this one. Wonderful little love story that is very “cool” indeed.
*** Track 5. – “Refugee” Written by Tom Gray, Mark Johnson, Franher Joseph & Marlon Patton.
Extremely topical at this time and the story can certainly start with the native Americans followed by the slaves and then to today’s civil unrest and war in the Middle East. This is a pointed statement at the state of our world and how we treat refugees. Joseph’s bass voice adds a menacing powerful statement throughout as Armstrong breaks it down to its lowest ebb of degradation to the displaced peoples of the world. Throughout the native American beat and cadence is tangible and telling. Thought provoking honest appraisal of just what we have done to fellow humans on mother earth.
*** Track 6. – “Mad About You” Written by Ton Gray, Mark Johnson, Franher Joseph & Marlon Patton.
Patton drives this one along with some very solid drumming that add to the grittiness of a song that introduces Gray’s vocals and electric piano that are expressive and questioning. As with previous tracks Gray and Johnson deliver outstanding guitar that just makes you sit up and say wow. Great track.
*** Track 7. – “Death Letter” Written by Edward James House Jr. ( Son House).
If ever you wanted to cover an artist when you play some of the wickedest steel and lap steel guitar then Lyon, Mississippi’s Son House is that artist. This isn’t just a mere cover but rather a stunning interpretation that brings Son into the 21st century. For me this one has elevated the group to dizzying heights that just moves my soul so much. From Patton’s modern Hip hop style drumming certainly introduces this song very differently to what one would expect but man it works perfectly. Joseph’s bass voice was a masterful stroke to the singing duties of Gray and Johnson as it adds that atmospheric darkness to the recording perfectly. Liebman’s harmonica riffs throughout the background to great effect as the full on guitar attack cuts through to the bone laying bare the soul of a man. Now this is how Son House would want to hear his seminal song. Like the way he played that was just plain brutal to his National guitar, this is just as brutal and so very desirable.
*** Track 8. – “21st Century Man ” Written by Tom Gray, Mark Johnson, Franher Joseph & Marlon Patton.
What a whimsical look at our world around us and ain’t it the truth what with people moving through life staring at some hand held gadget as if their life depended on it. Traversing through life now when you don’t understand or want to understand so called modern technology is a test within itself. Quite laid back instrumentation … “punctuated” by subtle electric piano from Gray. Ahh damn l’m just a 20th century man and proud of it!
*** Track 9. – “Cabbagetown Shuffle” Written by Tom Gray, Mark Johnson, Franher Joseph & Marlon Patton.
Now here we have an absolute gem of a back porch Country Blues instrumental that just feels prefect. This epitomises Delta Moon so well as their Southern Roots shine. Gray’s Hawaiian Guitar and Johnson on Bottleneck duel back and forth with effortless ease. Gray also riffs on harmonica as Patton’s brush work on drums sparkles. Now pass me the jug as l need a taste.
*** Track 10. – “Sing Together” Written by Tom Gray, Mark Johnson, Franher Joseph & Marlon Patton.
Closing out the album we return to the rockin’ style of track one. Here again we have a social commentary that needs to be said. Delta Moon don’t shy away from what is happening around us. Gray delivers his trademark vocals with a powerful chorus emphasising just what needs to be said. Johnson wails and moans with his slide guitar as Patton calls out with his African drumming reminding us where we come from and are all one. Now this is one helluva Blues album.
So glad to have you back, Delta Moon, and man you have delivered an outstanding Blues album in your very own inimitable style. Never one to follow the mainstream but rather follow your Southern Roots with a sound laden with stunning guitar and vocals. The cover of Son House’s “Death Letter” moved my soul and made me realise just why l and countless others can’t get enough of Delta Moon. Your songs are outstanding and at times very pointed and cutting back the layers of our lives exposing what we chose to ignore. All round the orchestration is brilliant as is the charts and phrasing. There is no filler here as every song can stand alone and shine, this is somewhat rare in this day and age as many albums have that track or two that just doesn’t cut the mustard. Congratulations guys on an outstanding album that will certainly feature highly on favourites lists at the end of the year.
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.
To spread the news about Delta Moon, we’ve put together a FREE download sampler album of ten favorite songs from our last four studio CDs. (Tips are not necessary, but they are appreciated.) Please help yourself and tell a friend.
By Johnny Andreassen
With “Low Down” Delta Moon has made its tenth album, including a Tom Waits song (“Down in the Flood”) plus a Skip James blues. The rest is their own material. Since front men Tom Gray and Mark Johnson are both slide guitarists, it will automatically bring to mind a certain sense of Sonny Landreth and the gumbo rock of Little Feat.
All the way done with style and the versatility, putting you in å good listening position from the album starts till it ends!
I think our own Spoonful of Blues boys have found their way home with a song like “Afterglow”, and the J.J. Cale feeling of “Nothing You Can Tell A Fool” is not to be mistaken. The Jack Bruce / Robin Trower feeling of “Mean Streak” and the Anders Osborne nerve in the Dylan song is further proof of the quality of Delta Moon. The common denominator is Little Feat’s mix of roots rock, blues and gospel/country. That they make both the Tom Waits song and their opening track “Wrong Side Of Town” sound like prime-time Little Feat music is just a sign of quality.
A band who masters the full spectrum of American traditional music with such elegance and good taste should not squandered! Go for it!