Rick Galusha's Pacific St. Blues and Americana

Since inception (1989), Pacific St. Blues & Americana strives to be a discerning voice helping roots fans sift through the mountains of music released every year. We are not for everyone; we want to engage active, critical listeners that hear beyond d'jour. Interviews include: Johnny Winter, Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Jerry Wexler, Tommy Shannon & Chris Layton, B.B. King, Dr. John, Robin Trower, Robben Ford, Mato Nanji, Joe Bonamassa, Harry Manx, Sue Foley, Marshall Chess, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Louvin, Kim Richey, Radney Foster, Eric Johnson, David Clayton Thomas, Al Kooper, Phil Chen (Wired, Blow By Blow), Ian McLagan, Art Neville, Southside Johnny, Miami Steve Van Zant, Nils Lofgren, Bruce Iglauer, Charlie Musselwhite, Studebaker John, Chris Duarte, Smokin' Joe Kubeck, Hamilton Loomis, Peter Karp, Roomful of Blues, James Harman, Hadden Sayers, Malford Milligan, Melvin Taylor, Otis Taylor, Dave Alvin, Coco Montoya, Jimmy Thackery, Marsha Ball, Maria Muldaur, Shelby Lynne, Magic Dick & J. Geils, Lil' Milton, BuddyGuy, Aynsley Lister, Matt Schofield, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, James Cotton, Robin & Jesse Davey, Hugh Coltman (Hoax), Sean Kelly (Samples), John Entwistle (The Who), Mark Olson (Jayhawks), Walter Wolfman Washington, Anthony Gomes, Bob Malone, Chubby Carrier, Buckwheat Zydeco, Murali Coryell, David Jacob Strain, DeAnna Bogart, Michael Lee Firkins, Guy Davis, Jason Ricci, John Doe, Little Feat, Matt Woods, MikeZito, Peter Buffett, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Corky Siegel, Todd Park Mohr, Watermelon Slim, Magic Slim, Corey Harris,- - - - - - ------------------------Radio archives: http://www.kiwrblues.podomatic.com/. Playlists: http://www.omahablues.com/ Reviews featured in http://www.blueswax.com/. Email: KIWRblues@gmail.com Live online; Sundays 9 a.m. (-6 GMT) http://www.897theriver.com/

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Delta Highway, The Devil Had a Woman

Artist: Delta Highway
Title: The Devil Had a Woman
Writer: Rick Galusha

Musical genres are little more than marketing tools to help people piece together what a band or compact disc is probably going to sound like. An indicator if you like. As the Major Label systems continues to shrink more and more artists are looking for a musical home. Subsequently more and more acts are falling into the blues category, not because they are playing anything close to the call-call-response of a 12 bar rotation but because the blues audience is big, has money and is generally less and less discerning. I think its great because the tie that binds is blues but the definition is getting wider and wider. Unlike the rock genre, which has fractured into tens of thousands of micro-niches, the blues continues to be an embracing genre that clings to the forefathers but essentially accepts nearly anything that chooses to call itself blues. As a cocksure John Travolta said in the film ‘Broken Arrow,’ “Ain’t it cool!”

With the release of their new album, ‘The Devil Had a Woman,’ the Memphis based band, Delta Highway sets aside any debate on what genre they belong to. This is pure contemporary blues firmly rooted in the traditional American artform. Unlike many roots blues bands however Delta Highway reaches out to the modern listener with fragrant hints of stronger melody lines and more apparent tunesmithing. The band is founded on the relationship of twenty-nine year old vocalist and harmonica player Brandon Santini and thirty-one year old guitarist Justin Sulek. Santini and Sulek are backed by industry stalwarts Tom Louis on bass and Keven Eddy on drums. Together the band has the sounds and textures of the Blues-Greats but utilize modern aspects including the modified vocal line, “The Devil had a woman looked a lot like you” in the title track. In addition, this band “pockets-in-the-groove” better than less experienced bands seem to capture on their albums.

Santini’s vocals are richer than most and are draped with careful harmonica backing lines for added depth and texture. This band underplays appropriately allowing Santini’s harp line, such as on the opening of ‘Feelin’ Bad’ to fully introduce the song without being pushed or overshadowed by pesky guitars or over-used drums. They embrace the song and use their skills to keep the listener focused as the song’s energy builds to a simmering height. There’s no hurry and there’s no rush. Tasty.

The fourth track on the album, “We Got a Thang Goin’ On” starts off with a heavy tilt towards the Rolling Stone’s 1978’s track, ‘Miss You’ including a possibly unintended refrain from Sugar Blue’s harmonica lick that the Stone’s used so effectively in their foray into disco…but make no mistake, Delta Highway’s take is seeped and dirty and won’t be mistaken for disco in your lifetime. The use of an organ in the song only adds to the energy which Santini’s harp solo sets against.

This is a very strong album from a band that has established itself in the blues friendly Mecca market of Memphis. Guitarist Sulek can rip’em off and lay’em down with tasty aplomb but without becoming the dominate force in the song; quickly moving back into the background. This is a band that prides itself on delivering “pure blues.” Clearly the band knows their history and their newest album, ‘The Devil Had a Woman” is an excellent vehicle for blues purists as well as more open minded blues listeners. More traditional radio programmers might spin the fifth track, ‘Got to Be On My Way’ while more free-form jocks find that, ‘We Got a Thang Goin’ On,’ with its Classic Rock reflection, something their listeners will enjoy.