Jumping Jack Records 2017
10 tracks; 37 minutes
Since winning the IBC in 2003 Delta Moon have gigged constantly, toured across the states and Europe and issued an impressive series of albums; 2015’s Low Down made the album of the year lists in several magazines but Cabbagetown is possibly their best disc yet with several outstanding songs. The band has always centred round the twin guitars of Mark Johnson and Tom Gray with Tom providing the lead vocals. Both men play slide and lap steel, Tom also playing keys where needed and harp on one cut. The other band members are Franher Joseph on upright and electric bass and vocals and Marlon Patton on drums. Jon Liebman adds harp on one track and backing vocals are added to five songs by Kyshona Armstrong and Susannah Masarie. Main songwriter Tom wrote four songs on his own and the whole band are credited on five others with one cover, Son House’s “Death Letter”.
The first four songs are all Tom’s and are fun and catchy tunes. Opener “Rock And Roll Girl” is terrific with Mark’s exciting lap steel underpinning the rocking story of a life in the music biz: “I tried working five days a week, sit home in the evening and watch TV. The time I sold I’ll never get back. So I joined a rock and roll band, seen the world through a haze of one night stands. And you, my rock and roll girl, you’re the only thing I done right in this ragged round world”. Equally catchy is “The Day Before Tomorrow” with attractive backing vocals and lyrics about making the most of today: “the thing about tomorrow, it’s coming ready or not, and the day before tomorrow is all we’ve ever got”. Tom shows a sense of humour on “Just Lucky I Guess” over acoustic bass, mandolin and slide and the ultra-catchy “Coolest Fools” with its bubbling rhythms and twin slide attack. The band composition “Mad About You” rushes along with Tom on electric piano and clearly besotted by the girl.
Things get a whole lot more serious with “Refugee” which depicts the horrors of the refugee crisis through spoken word statements by Tom, Franher and Kyshona about how harrowing their characters’ lives are; this is serious songwriting about a serious subject, well presented and thought-provoking. “Death Letter” has always been a serious song and Delta Moon’s take on it brings some modern aspects as the rhythm section lays down a hip-hop beat, the slide adding ominous tones which are further accentuated by the harp; Franher’s deep-toned vocal adds to Tom’s and the whole version is a successful updating of an old favourite whilst still retaining the sense of tragedy and sadness that the original had.
Tom takes a critical look at our obsession with gadgets on the gently grooving “21st Century Man” before a return to the basics of the blues with the instrumental “Cabbagetown Shuffle” which takes the band back to its origins when Tom and Mark used to play duets on their back porch, this time with acoustic bass, simple drums, lap steel and harp from Tom and bottleneck slide from Mark. The album closes on a positive note, Tom reminding us that we should be celebrating our shared origins rather than fearing and fighting each other; we should start to “Sing Together”.
A fine album with no weak tracks; hard to imagine any blues fan not enjoying this one.