Archive for the Delta Moon Category

Delta Moon – Clear Blue Flame 2007

Posted in BLUES, Delta Moon on December 11, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Delta Moon – Clear Blue Flame 2007

Blues

Many music fans may remember Tom Gray’s name from his early-1980s band the Brains. Down South, ’round the Nashville-Atlanta-Birmingham triangle, the band was a hot commodity back in the day. The Brains’ self-titled debut album for Mercury Records yielded a minor college radio hit in the bittersweet “Money Changes Everything,” which would later become a huge mainstream hit for Cyndi Lauper.
After the monster success of “Money Changes Everything,” Gray moved to Nashville with an eye towards becoming a country songwriter. The talented scribe soon found that a songwriter’s life in the Music City is more about politics and relationships than about talent and, well, songs … so Gray hightailed it back to Atlanta.

Gray’s Nashville tenure produced one positive, however, in that it interested the artist in traditional styles of music. Meeting up with fellow guitarist Mark Johnson, the two formed Delta Moon, a blues-rock band. A number of bass players and drummers have passed through the band in the decade since, as have a pair of fine female singers. With Clear Blue Flame, Delta Moon’s fourth studio album, though, Gray takes over as the band’s vocalist in a move that changes the texture, but not the overall direction of Delta Moon’s unique sound.

Gray’s swampadelic guitar licks kick off the eerie “Clear Blue Flame.” A laid-back yet rockin’ tale of love and betrayal, “Clear Blue Flame” speaks to the heart-numbing qualities of well-made ‘shine. Gray’s gruff vocals and the song’s overall dark vibe reminds of kudzu dropping off the cypress trees in some deep, lost corner of the South. “Stranger In My Hometown” tells of the alienation caused by “progress,” a gentle rhythm supporting Gray’s soulful vocals, the tune offering some delicious six-string sounds.

A wicked bad guitar lick hits your ears at the beginning of “Lap Dog,” a classically-styled blues song with Maxwell Street lyrics and a Bourbon Street soundtrack. “I’m A Witness” sways and stutters back and forth, a wonky rhythm supporting Gray’s testimony and some fierce slidework. The juke-joint holler “You Done Told Everybody” comes straight from the heart of the Delta, Gray and Johnson offering some tasty syncopated fretwork and Charley Patton-styled percussive rhythms beneath Gray’s best Son House vocals.

“Jessie Mae” is a wonderful, heartfelt tribute to the late Mississippi Hill Country blueswoman Jessie Mae Hemphill. Gray and Johnson do this one up right, down tuning their guitars, pulling a nasty circular riff out of the Burnside songbook, and bringing it home with a steady, driving rhythm. The song tells of the triumphs and tragedies of Hemphill’s life, but it could also serves as the life story of many blues musicians. The duo’s playing on “Jessie Mae” is magnificent, twin guitars reaching across a smoke-filled juke-joint to grab you by the ears.

Anybody casually picking up Clear Blue Flame on the basis of Gray’s long-past work, expecting to hear the power-pop of the Brains, will be sorely disappointed. The savvy music consumer, however, grabbing a copy of this – or any other Delta Moon album – just to hear the band’s wonderful fusion of swamp-blues, roots-rock, and acoustic mountain music will certainly be entertained.

Tom Gray and Mark Johnson are skilled musicians, well-schooled in the nuances of the styles they’re working in, and both are fine slide-guitarists. Gray has aged well as a songwriter; his tales of ordinary folks, failed romances, and hopeful losers comprise a new Southern Gothic literature worthy of the bluesmen (and women) of the 1920s and ’30s. Although firmly rooted in the Delta blues and hillbilly music of the past, Delta Moon delivers with a ferocity and passion that can only be expressed in the present.
By Reverend Keith A. Gordon. AMG.
**
Four albums onward, wether he likes it or not, Tom Gray is now the sole lead singer without any girl singers to help him along the way. The transformation from new wave to straight country rock blues is now complete and with a new version of Money Changes Everything it goes from new wave despair to remade country blues in a blink of a eye and it wouldn’t sound out of place on the local country station. In fact it’s more country than Rascal Flatts. The only cover on this album is a Mississippi Fred McDowell cover of You Done Told Everybody although Gray does a tribute song to Jesse May Hemphill.

Certainly Delta Moon’s roots are more rooted in the swamp blues of McDowell and Hemphill more than they are than say, Creedence or even Skynyrd at this point. Listening to this you can’t tell that almost thirty years ago that Gray was once part of The Brains, a band way ahead of their time but thanks to Cyndi Lauper managed to keep a footnote in rock history and let Tom Gray take up the steel guitar and into the blues. Even I can’t believe that once upon a time Gray was part of the New Wave pop and roll. Certainly Money Changes Everything 2k7 remains the highlight of the album but there are other swamp rockers such as the title track and Blind Spot to keep one’s attention span going. Even though Mark Johnson figures into this album, it is Gray that returns to the spotlight and even though Kris Markiton isn’t around with her female vocal counterpoint, she’s really not missed all that much (Gina Leigh was much better suited to the type of songs of DM). With Clear Blue Flame however, Gray, Johnson and company continue to go one foot deeper in the blues and we’re all the better for it.
By R. Smith.
**
The Southern swamp blues-rock of Delta Moon takes a significant turn with the exclusion of a female frontperson/vocalist for the first time in the group’s career. Guitarist/songwriter Tom Gray is the exclusive singer throughout, which gives …    Full Descriptionthis a slightly tougher, less overtly sexy texture than previous albums. Gray’s grainy voice isn’t polished, but its rough-around-the-edges crunch is perfect for the slippery twin slide guitar-propelled attack that Delta Moon have all but patented. Songs such as “Jessie Mae” (dedicated to and about blues woman Jessie Mae Hemphill) take funky, greasy riffs and drive them home through repetition and intensity as the rhythm section stays in the pocket. The style shifts slightly to include the greasy midtempo “Life’s a Song,” which features the dual intertwining guitars laying down the foundation, but generally the template remains consistent for the majority of these 11 tracks. Gray is a classy songwriter whose topics of ornery men and women generally mistreating each other are handled with sophistication and a deft touch unusual for the genre. Most impressive is the sense of restraint for a band that features two excellent slide guitarists (Mark Johnson is the other). The solos are short, sharp, and concise, and don’t compromise the melodies for the sake of aimless wanking, a refreshing change for both Southern rock and blues played by guitarists. Gray revisits his own number one hit, “Money Changes Everything,” in a fiddle-soaked version that sounds unlike either the original new wave-oriented approach by his first band, the Brains, or Cyndi Lauper’s far more Technicolor — and popular — cover. But that is not typical of this more aggressive set, which hones Delta Moon’s established slide guitar-dominated sound with tight playing, memorable melodies, and a gutsy sense of red-clay rebelliousness found all too rarely in prepackaged contemporary blues-rock.
By Hal Horowitz. AMG.
**
“Tom Gray and Mark Johnson are the rusty, banged up Cadillacs of the slide guitar, side by side coughing up smoke and spitting backwoods dirt, but unswerving in their precision and singular style. Gray and Johnson form the axis of Delta Moon, and their slippery, rousing blend of delta-style blues and rock ‘n’ roll consciousness never fails to be gutsy and mesmerizing.”
By Tom Clarke.
**
Tom Gray- Vocals, Guitar, Steel Guitar, Organ, Dulcimer
Mark Johnson- Guitar, Mandoguitar
Ted Pecchio- Bass
Tyler Greenwell- Drums and Percussion
Chris Long- Backing Vocals, Bass  (track 3 and 8)
Zeb Bowles- Fiddle  (track 3)
Jeff Bakos- Tamourine  (track 5)
**
01. Clear Blue Flame 4:07
02. Blind Spot 3:41
03. Money Changes Everything 3:48
04. Trouble in the Home 3:39
05. Jessie Mae 4:20
06. Cool Your Jets 3:29
07. Life’s a Song 4:15
08. Stranger in My Hometown 3:07
09. Lap Dog 3:04
10. I’m a Witness 3:47
11. You Done Told Everybody 3:20
**

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