Having endured several sub-par indie releases in succession recently, I approached Delta Moon's self-titled debut fully expecting to relegate it to the 'interesting but unremarkable' pile. Which would, I'm more than happy to say, have been wrong. Very wrong. This is indeed a remarkable disc, the kind that makes one wish for more hours in the day simply to enjoy it again (and again, and again . . . ).
Delta Moon began life as a trio - Gina Leigh on vocals and percussion, Tom Gray on lap guitar, keys, and vocals, and Mark Johnson on bottleneck. They've since gained a regular rhythm section to help propel things along, in the process adding a welcome punch to proceedings. But it's unquestionably the atmospheric sound achieved by the core threesome that makes this project such a success.
First, the guitars. Weaving in and out, they're alternately shimmering with sun-drenched sunshine and brooding with moonlit menace. And the material's intelligently arranged to take full advantage of the textures each contributes, from the thick, dirty tones of Mr. Johnson's slide to the chiming acoustic contributions of Mr. Gray. Vocally, both Ms. Leigh and Mr. Gray are top-notch, she sultry (there are hints of Dusty Springfield in places), he gravely gravelly, both singing with unforced ease yet oozing with passion, trading leads and employing their voices to accent and compliment each other to great effect.
Material includes a half-dozen covers from the likes of Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Tommy Johnson; Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle" is given a swampy treatment while Dave Evans' "Play Me A Song Little Blind Boy" features an almost delicate reading to close the disc. Mr. Gray adds five originals, all very much in a similar vein; those unfamiliar with the older songs are unlikely to notice that Tom's are from an entirely different era.
Performances are uniformly excellent, but again it's the carefully constructed and intricately layered arrangements that raise this disc above the pack. Together Delta Moon manage to update traditional delta blues while respecting its origins and the pioneers who forged the sound (I doubt there's anything here that wouldn't delight the composers), while adding to the menu with their own compositions. Some listeners might find some of the arrangements more satisfying than others (to me the driving beat of Tommy Johnson's "Big Road Blues" seems a little forced), but I'd mark that down to personal tastes, not aesthetic deficiencies.
All in all an excellent disc, unique yet in a classic vein. Recommended without reservation!
Delta Moon Records, PO 5352, Atlanta, Ga 31107 USA
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