Delta Spirit’s ‘History From Below’ expands on Americana sound

By Rudy Klapper My most cherished bands have always appealed to me not only with a sense of timelessness but with a feeling of placelessness as well, as if they could be from anywhere or, even better, if they evoke the sound of a region or era without coming off as copycats or sycophantic rubes. By only their second album, Delta Spirit is already rapidly becoming one of my favorite unsigned bands, thanks largely to their ability to pull off just that aura of sounding like a region whose music I unabashedly love (the South) while hailing from a place I’d love to visit (San Diego). These are two dots one would likely not be able to connect listening to the band – singer Matthew Vasquez’s whiskey-soaked voice calls to mind the Allman Brothers Band or the cracked rasp of Walkmen vocalist Hamilton Leithauser, while the band pumps out a genuinely raucous Southern-fried blues rock that has matured well since their 2008 debut. History From Below is just what a sophomore effort should be, equal parts a step forward and eleven songs stronger, all the red-blooded rock and soulful vitality of their debut while expanding on their trademark Americana sound.

To be honest, there was nothing here that struck me as forcefully as Ode to Sunshine’s first single, “Trashcan,” nor nothing as quite as in-your-face raw “People C’mon,” but unlike their debut, History From Below is quite the studio album, revealing more and more upon each subsequent listen. The band’s growth as songwriters is quite pronounced, as a listen to a slow burner like “White Table” or the flamenco spice on “St. Francis” makes apparent. Delta Spirit never would have tried the conceit of an eight-minute closer before like they do here, but “Ballad of Vitality” never crumbles under the weight of its own ambition, nor ever really feels like an eight-minute song, which is probably the greatest compliment I could give it. Swelling as it does from a campfire ballad to a charging blues beast, “Ballad of Vitality” exemplifies the band’s evolution from dyed-in-the-wool live performers to accomplished studio artists. That talent of transferring their backwoods bar-band vibe onto record isn’t something to be taken lightly, allowing a tune like “911,” one that fits best in a live setting, to coexist seamlessly with a acoustic ballad like “Scarecrow” without a hitch. It’s an impressive achievement, and one many bands that have made their name on the road have been unable to pull off.

Delta Spirit – History From Below
Rounder Records 2010
Rating: 8/10

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