Muddy Bottom Blues
Program #155 (January 18 at 8:00 p.m. and January 19 at 3:00 p.m.)
Delta Moon possess an instantly recognizable sound that evokes classic swamp pop, bar band blues, and roadhouse roots rock wrapped in tight, artfully arranged and hook-laden original tunes and covers.
The band was formed in the late 1990s by vocalist, songwriter, and lap steel guitarist Tom Gray (formerly of the Brains) and slide guitarist Mark Johnson. The pair met by chance in an Atlanta music store. Gray, a professional songwriter, penned "Money Changes Everything" (the Cyndi Lauper hit) as well as songs covered by many other artists including John Brannen, Manfred Mann, Carlene Carter, and Bonnie Bramlett. Johnson was a founding member of Atlanta's Crawdaddies before working with Gray.
The pair began playing together anywhere they could, from coffee shops to street fairs to clubs. They established their trademark twin slide guitar sound that owes more to Little Feat than the Allman Brothers. Their first vocalist was Gina Leigh, who appeared on the band's self-released, self-titled debut offering in 2002.
A year later, they won the International Blues Challenge and issued a live album. Goin' Down South followed in 2004 and marked Leigh's recorded departure. She was replaced by Kristin Markiton, who joined in time for the band's fourth studio offering, Howlin', in 2005, which was the first to feature Haitian bassist Franher Joseph and drummer Darren Stanley (who was replaced by Vic Stafford in 2015).
Markiton left in 2006 to pursue her own career and Gray took over the microphone for 2007's Clear Blue Flame. The album featured a radically reworked version of "Money Changes Everything." Though making records was important, the road was where Delta Moon spent their time growing as a band. They relentlessly toured the continental U.S. and also did shows at several European blues festivals.
Hell Bound Train was issued in 2010, followed by Black Cat Oil two years later. Needing a break from the recording studio while continuing to tour, Delta Moon placated fans -- and expanded their reputation -- by self-issuing a pair of live albums in 2013: Life's a Song and Turn Around When Possible. Both records got enormous critical notice Delta Moon's unique update of vintage roots sounds.
Their repertoire, while chock-full of fine original songs, also included uniquely arranged covers of classic blues, pop, and R&B tunes. (2004's Goin' Down South had foreshadowed this with a reading of the David Bowie-Iggy Pop classic "Nightclubbing," done as a spooky blues.)
The band's breakthrough occurred with 2015's Low Down. The 12-track set featured nine Gray tunes as well as compelling covers of songs by Skip James ("Hard Time Killing Floor Blues"), Bob Dylan ("Down in the Flood"), and Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan (the title track). The album made many critics' year-end blues lists, but the road still beckoned: Delta Moon spent the better part of the next two years working it, playing headline gigs in higher profile clubs and prestigious festival stages across the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
After a short break, Delta Moon emerged with Cabbagetown in the early fall of 2017; among its nine tracks -- many written by the band with Larkin Poe's Marlon Patton -- was a striking cover of Son House's "Death Letter."
(provided by Allmusic)