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Clear Blue Flame

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Album Review

The Southern swamp blues-rock of Delta Moon takes a significant turn with the exclusion of a female frontperson/vocalist for the first time in the group's career. Guitarist/songwriter Tom Gray is the exclusive singer throughout, which gives this a slightly tougher, less overtly sexy texture than previous albums. Gray's grainy voice isn't polished, but its rough-around-the-edges crunch is perfect for the slippery twin slide guitar-propelled attack that Delta Moon have all but patented. Songs such as "Jessie Mae" (dedicated to and about blues woman Jessie Mae Hemphill) take funky, greasy riffs and drive them home through repetition and intensity as the rhythm section stays in the pocket. The style shifts slightly to include the greasy midtempo "Life's a Song," which features the dual intertwining guitars laying down the foundation, but generally the template remains consistent for the majority of these 11 tracks. Gray is a classy songwriter whose topics of ornery men and women generally mistreating each other are handled with sophistication and a deft touch unusual for the genre. Most impressive is the sense of restraint for a band that features two excellent slide guitarists (Mark Johnson is the other). The solos are short, sharp, and concise, and don't compromise the melodies for the sake of aimless wanking, a refreshing change for both Southern rock and blues played by guitarists. Gray revisits his own number one hit, "Money Changes Everything," in a fiddle-soaked version that sounds unlike either the original new wave-oriented approach by his first band, the Brains, or Cyndi Lauper's far more Technicolor — and popular — cover. But that is not typical of this more aggressive set, which hones Delta Moon's established slide guitar-dominated sound with tight playing, memorable melodies, and a gutsy sense of red-clay rebelliousness found all too rarely in prepackaged contemporary blues-rock.

Clear Blue Flame, Delta Moon
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