Friday, July 20, 2012

CD Review: “Black Cat Oil” by Delta Moon

Black Cat Oil

Black Cat Oil

Take Mississippi delta blues meets the gritty backwoods country twang. Add a rock steady beat, and give it a lo fi feeling with vintage gear and recording techniques and you have Delta Moon, the Atlanta, GA. group consisting of founders Tom Gray and Mark Johnson, the dual slide guitars players with Tom handling lead vocal duties. Throw in Franher Joseph on bass and backing vocals, and Marlon Patton on drums and you have the raw, honest gut bucket roots music with a CCR, swamp rock feel.

“Black Cat Oil” 5/2012 by Delta Moon

Initially a chance meeting in an Atlanta, GA music store brought the two founders together. Tom tried to sell Mark a Dobro out of the back of his van. Tom remembers the girl with Mark whispering, “Let’s get out of here.” Mark didn’t buy the guitar, but the two exchanged phone numbers and soon were playing together regularly in coffee shops and barbecue joints around Atlanta. Mark came up with the name Delta Moon after a pilgrimage to Muddy Waters’ cabin near Clarksdale, Mississippi.

“The album’s title came from looking at the graphics of old hoodoo medicine labels, which I find fascinating,” Tom Gray explains. “We’re not the first musicians to draw inspiration there.The original Fleetwood Mac used ‘Hot Foot Powder’ (a Robert Johnson song) for an album title, and they used an old hoodoo label as their album art.

Throw in a story like that, mix it with wonderful song writing – Tom was named  2008 Blues Songwriter of the Year and  his songs have been recorded by Cyndi Lauper (including the hit “Money Changes Everything”), Manfred Mann, Carlene Carter, Bonnie Bramlett and many others and it all makes for a great, kicked back sound where the music washes over you like a warm dip in a slow moving river after a days work.

“Blues In A Bottle” by Delta Moon from the 2012 album “Black Cat Oil”

Mark Johnson grew up  up in a trailer park in Ravenna, Ohio. His uncle owned a record store, and there was always music in the Johnson home. Mark played guitar in bands all through high school. In the early 1990s he moved to Atlanta, where he formed a band called the Rude Northerners. About that time he abandoned standard tuning and became obsessed with bottleneck slide.

Together they lead a band who’s music goes down as smooth as old whiskey and gets heads to boppin’ and feet a tappin’.

Gray’s voice sounds like it has been marinated in barbeque sauce and smoked over hickory wood. It’s a sensuous sound that weaves around the spooky sound of the lap steel and seems to snake through the strings on the upright bass. The tunes are distinctive, yet cohesive, cut from the same broadcloth bolt of inspiration. "Down and Dirty" is a blues shuffle telling a tale of hope amid despair. Tom is a recent cancer survivor, and you can’t help wondering how much of that battle went into this tune. In contrast, "Jukin'," is an ode to the pure joy of making music, and “Neon Jesus” tells you, these guys get to town on sometimes on a Saturday night, and can laugh about it. the only cover tune here is Mississippi Fred McDowells “Write Me A Few Of Your Lines” which is a faithful cover but dipped in the bands own special blend of musical flavorings. Pick this one up, and check their website for tour dates.

The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved

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