Delta Moon features unique dueling slide guitar leads that give the band’s music the swampy, gritty sound that has made it one of Atlanta’s best kept secrets. Black Cat Oil, the seventh album to feature the lap-steel guitar-work of singer-songwriter Tom Gray and bottleneck slide guitar of Mark Johnson, is a solid offering.
Delta Moon, which until 2007’s Clear Blue Flame frequently featured female lead singers (first Gina Leigh and later Kristin Markiton), has garnered significant critical, if not commercial, success. An early high point for the band was 2004’s Goin’ Down South, which, with Gina Leigh’s vocals, created some magical moments (check out “Nobody Knows”). The current line-up features Gray and Johnson, plus bassist Franher Joseph and drummer Marlon Patton. The bluesy, sometimes funky feel of the band’s music gives their records a down-home, distinctly southern feel reminiscent of J.J. Grey & Mofro’s Florida swamp-boogie or the North Mississippi Allstars. But Delta Moon has its own signature approach that needs to be heard to be appreciated.
Like Clear Blue Flame, Black Cat Oil again finds Delta Moon cranking out an excellent, passionate brand of swamp rock. The tunes are memorable, and the musicianship is outstanding on every track. The first track, “Down and Dirty,” sets a rocking tone for the album. Other highlights are “Blues in a Bottle,” the title tune, and “Neon Jesus.”
While Black Cat Oil is an excellent effort, the female singers featured in the band prior to 2007, particularly Gina Leigh, gave the band a dimension that the current Delta Moon lineup and other leading blues-rock bands (JJ Grey, NMAS, Gov’t Mule, etc. ) lack. That said, Delta Moon is still a great band, and the dual slide-guitar approach creates a sound unlike any other.
About the author: Bill Wilcox is a roots music enthusiast recently relocated from the Washington, DC area to Philadelphia, PA.