13 tracks / 50:07
Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at http://rexbass.blogspot.com.
Boston is an incredible city with a rich history, a diverse population and the best restaurants on the east coast. But it also has a thriving arts scene that has launched bands that are revered in most every genre, including Aerosmith, The Pixies, New Edition, The Cars, J. Geils Band, The Dropkick Murphys and James Taylor. The Delta Generators could well be their best representative of the modern blues scene.
The Delta Generators were founded in 2008 and they hang with a heavy crowd, having shared the stage with Robert Cray, Three Dog Night, James Cotton, Jimmie Vaughn, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Johnny Winter, Walter Trout, Candye Kane, and Sonny Landreth. Heck, Brad Whitford from Aerosmith has sat in with them before. Through endless touring throughout New England and the tri-state area they have garnered their fair share of loyal fans, and it is these fans who financed their latest album through pledgemusic.com.
Get on the Horse is their third release, and their sound and has evolved a lot since their last album. This is in part due to the team they brought on board to fine tune their recordings from Barn #81 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Their fans’ pledges helped pay for mixing by Grammy winner David Z (Prince, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Etta James, and Gov’t Mule), and mastering by Dave McNair (David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Los Lobos, and Derek Trucks). The band’s line-up is familiar, with Craig Rawding on vocals, harmonica, and acoustic guitar, Rick O’Neal on bass, Jeff “J.J.” Armstrong on drums and piano, and Charlie O’Neal on guitar and banjo.
The music for all thirteen tracks was written by the band, with Rawding penning the lyrics. They recorded this album mostly live with just a few overdubs so there is a vibrant mojo that is hard to get with a traditional studio album. This is very apparent on track one, “Whole Lotta Whiskey” which hits hard right out of the gate with Charlie O’Neal’s driving electric slide guitar. Rawding is up front with his extra-strong vocals, and it only takes a listen or two to realize that their lyrics have improved as much as their production. This tale of old friends who took different paths in life in life is well-told and is an omen of what the rest of the album holds in store. By the way, there is the added bonus of some tasty organ work from guest artist John Cooke on this song.
Setting the mood in a tune full of painful lyrics, “It’s Been Hard” kicks off with “Driving drunk and singing out of key / Down your street / Spinning out and crashing at your feet / You don’t see me.” This is a beautifully personal song of loss that showcases Rawding’s versatility and features lovely harmonies and backing vocals from Keri Anderson. This blues-tinged ballad is definitely one of the standout tracks of the album.
No genre is taboo for the Delta Generators, and heavy English blues rock is represented by “Spider Bite” which has sort of a Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin vibe. Accompanied by heavy ride cymbal and a thunderous snare, Rawding howls the vocals while Charlie O’Neal does his best Ritchie Blackmore imitation. This is quite a contrast with ”Night of the Johnstown Flood” which is a slow blues song that memorializes this 1889 Pennsylvania disaster while drawing parallels with the biblical story of Cain and Abel. Charlie O’Neal gets to tear loose on the guitar over a foundation of John Cooke’s sublime organ work in a gorgeous interlude. This is seven minutes of incredible music, and it should not be missed.
“Diablo Rock” is completely unexpected and shows that the Delta Generators have a sense of humor. This is a rocker with crunchy guitars and heavy toms that describes a night of God and the Devil drinking, and it includes a few Gary Glitter “Rock and Roll Part II” interludes. This leads straight into “Blood Sugar Baby,” a danceable funk song that features Prince-styled falsetto vocals. These guys are not reluctant to mix things up, and this album never gets dull.
The band closes out the CD with “The More I Find Out (The Less I Want to Know),” a sad tale of a man who opens his woman’s closet and is dismayed by all of the skeletons that fall out. This is a slow-burning blues song that has Latin and jazz elements courtesy of Armstrong’s innovative percussion and Rick O’Neal’s Spartan bass lines. O’Neal’s brother has a great touch with his electric guitar and uses phrasing and silence to create drama galore, making this the perfect song to end the disc.
Get on the Horse is the Delta Generators best album to date and it has well-written original songs that cross genres and are performed admirably. When you throw in first class production values from start to finish, buying this modern blues collection is a no-brainer. Of course an artist is only as good as their next album and because they set the bar high this time there will be great expectations for their next project. They are certainly up to the task, and hopefully the wait will not be long!