|“Cabbagetown” is the new music project from the Atlanta-based blues and roots rock quartet, Delta Moon. It’s the band’s 8th studio album and 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 consists of nine original compositions and one cover of Son House’s timeless classic, ‘Death Letter.’
After a long and successful European tour in spring 2016, the band reconvened in Marlon Patton’s studio in Tucker, Georgia, to strike while still red hot from playing six nights a week for the past several months. The atmosphere was relaxed and fun, in a rural setting surrounded by great gear, a Pyrenees pup named Leo, woods, chickens, vegetarian food and lots of session ales.
Award-winning songwriter Tom Gray had several new Delta Moon classics ready to go – ‘Rock And Roll Girl,’ ‘The Day Before Tomorrow,’ ‘Just Lucky I Guess,’ and ‘Coolest Fools.’ Full-band renditions quickly followed with a few twists, Mark Johnson playing lap steel on ‘Rock And Roll Girl’ and Gray playing Spanish-style guitar on several songs. The rest of the original songs were written by the band in the studio, including ‘Refugee,’ ‘21st Century Man,’ ‘Cabbagetown Shuffle,’ ‘Sing Together’ and ‘Mad About You.’ This method of writing led to some interesting results with new emphasis on Franher Joseph’s rich bass voice, some non-slide lead playing by Johnson and Gray’s piano playing. In Johnson’s home studio Susannah Masarie and Kyshona Armstrong added backing vocals. Jon Liebman played harmonica on ‘Death Letter.’ Finally, the band headed to Bakos Amp Works to finish overdubs and mix the album in their old studio, now inhabited by the talented Jeff Bakos.
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’ recounting their plight in multi-voiced narratives over a soulful groove. Gray switches to electric piano for the driving ‘Mad About You’ and drummer Patton lays down a phat hip hop beat to open the ultra-modern reading of ‘Death Letter’ with Jon Liebman adding greasy blues harmonica, sparing 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 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.
Rick J Bowen
Tom Gray and Mark Johnson met many years ago now in an Atlanta music store when Tom tried to sell Mark a Dobro out of the back of his van. Mark didn’t buy the guitar, but the two soon got together to swap slide guitar licks. That summer, on a pilgrimage to Clarksdale, Mississippi, Mark saw a huge yellow moon rise over Muddy Waters’ cabin and said, “That’s the name of my next band — Delta Moon.”
The idea of two slide guitarists in the same band is an unusual approach, but it works phenomenally well for Delta Moon. Tom and Mark started playing regularly in coffee shops and barbecue joints around Atlanta. In the early 2000s Delta Moon added a rhythm section and quickly gathered a wall-full of local “best” awards. After winning the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2003, the band widened its travels to include concerts and festivals in the US, Canada, and Europe. They have been touring ever since. Delta Moon’s music has been featured in television shows on Showtime, Lifetime, the Food Network and more.
The American Roots Music Association named Tom Gray 2008 Blues Songwriter of the Year. His songs have been recorded by Cyndi Lauper (including the hit “Money Changes Everything”), Manfred Mann, Carlene Carter, Bonnie Bramlett and many others.
Tom Gray: vocals, lap steel, guitar, keyboards, harmonica
Mark Johnson: guitar, banjo, backing vocals
Franher Joseph: bass, backing vocals
Marlon Patton: drums