Clear Blue Flame

Delta Moon

Jumping Jack, 2007

REVIEW BY: Paul King


Formed after a chance meeting in a music store between guitarists Tom Gray and Mark Johnson, Delta Moon have built up a decent sized following in the United States and Europe, becoming one of the best-known and most popular blues-rock bands to emerge from Atlanta and the South in recent years. The band’s initial line-up of Tom and Mark, together with lead vocalist Gina Leigh and a rotating cast of drummers and bass players, released a string of well-received albums before Leigh decided to leave the band in 2004. She was replaced by Kristin Markiton, who stayed for only a year and-a-half herself before departing to concentrate on a burgeoning solo career.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Clear Blue Flame, Delta Moon’s fifth album, is their first to feature founding member Tom Gray on lead vocals. Having gone through two female vocalists in the course of as many albums, Gray decided to handle the vocal duties himself rather than recruit another singer. Explaining his change of role within the band he joked, “I didn’t start out to sing lead in this band but like kudzu, I’ve taken over.”

The result of this change is a tougher, earthier sound driven by Gray’s whiskey-soaked voice and the weaving, twin slide guitar interplay that has always been Delta Moon’s stock in trade. Like all great two-guitar bands, from the Allman Brothers to The Strokes, Delta Moon realize that sometimes less is more and never let their guitar prowess get in the way of a song’s melody.

Highlights found on this album include the world-weary title track, the swaggering “Jessie Mae” and the gently rolling “Stranger In My Hometown,” which recalls some of Canned Heat’s mellower moments. Gray also manages to reclaim his million-selling 80s hit “Money Changes Everything,” a song made famous by Cyndi Lauper, by dressing it up in an Americana tinged arrangement, complete with suitably down-home fiddle part.

The album comes to a satisfying close with an authentically sparse rendition of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “You Done Told Everybody,” a track that both betrays the band’s influences and illustrates their undoubted passion for the blues as an art form all at the same time.

While some of the material on Clear Blue Flame is rather formulaic and of a slightly predictable nature, fans of The Blues Band, Terry Garland, Ry Cooder or slide guitar blues in general will find much to admire amongst its eleven tracks. The slick, mildly sensuous female vocals of previous releases may be gone, but the material on this disc more than makes up for it with authentic delta grit.

Rating: C

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