Mailboat Records – 2015
11 tracks; 44 minutes
Delta Deep is a new band and this is their eponymous debut release. However, that statement hides the fact that the band is a new project for Def Leppard guitarist Phil Cullen who wanted to produce what he calls “an extreme blues project”. Writing with family friend and vocalist Debbi Blackwell-Cook, Phil wrote eight of the tunes here and there are three covers. Phil plays all guitar parts and some vocals, Debbi leads on most songs and the rhythm section consists of Robert Deleo (Stone Temple Pilots) on bass and Forrest Robinson (Crusaders, TLC, India.Arie) on drums. A different rhythm section of Paul Cook (drums) and Simon Laffy (bass) replaces Forrest and Robert on one track and Phil reached into his contacts to enlist CJ Vanston (B3) and rock vocalists David Coverdale (Whitesnake, Deep Purple) and fellow Leppard Joe Elliott to sit in on a track each.
The album has something of a schizophrenic approach with tracks like “Shuffle Sweet”, “Miss Me” and “Burnt Sally” (with CJ Vanston’s B3) being heavy rock numbers whereas opener “Bang The Lid” sounds far more like the Delta of the band’s name with terrific electric slide over a thumping groove with added handclaps, Debbi’s exciting vocals recalling Tina Turner in her heyday. “Down In The Delta” takes the slide work into a song that is half way between blues and rock with Robert’s heavy bass and Phil’s intense riffing at its heart. The band can play more quietly too, witness “Whiskey” which opens with some gentle guitar and Debbi singing of “a place where the whiskey drinks the blues”, the guitar and drums bringing elements of jazz into this blues before Phil adds a full-on rock solo. The band can also do soul, as on “Treat Her Like Candy” which sounds like one of those old Motown duets as Debbi and Phil exchange verses with fine backing vocals on the choruses. “Feelit” is another variation, a groove-oriented tune with excellent soul vocals from Debbi.
The three covers include William Bell and Judy Clay’s classic soul number “Private Number” on which David Coverdale duets with Debbi to good effect, the band playing the song pretty straight, Phil stretching out on his solo. Ike and Tina Turner’s “Black Coffee” is the song with the alternate rhythm section, Phil’s guitar screaming alongside his hoarse lead vocal, Debbi adding the backing vocals and chorus. Joe Elliott sings lead on an extended version of “Mistreated”, a David Coverdale/Ritchie Blackmore song from Deep Purple’s back catalogue, Phil doing a solid impression of Ritchie’s guitar style; Debbi sings alternate verses with Joe, but for this reviewer this one outstays its welcome with plenty of screaming vocals (very Purple-ish!).
An interesting album with several high points as well as some songs that may be too rock-oriented for some blues fans.