(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, January 14, 2011

CD review - Delta Spirit, The Waits Room EP (2010)

The Waits Room EP is a change of pace for alt rockers Delta Spirit. For the most part, they've toned down the raucous edges (John Henry being an exception) to show off more of their country folk influences. It's a nicely balanced bit of Americana. Comparisons spring to mind -- like Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, and some of Ryan Adams more country tinted work -- but The Waits Room EP feels confessional, like Delta Spirit sharing another facet of their musical personas.

The EP opens with the traditional country folk sound of The Flood, with warm vocal harmonies adding a vaguely bluegrass feel. The soft focus and simple phrasing stand in stark contrast with the trashcan lids and wild stage energy of their live performances.

A couple of the songs revise earlier versions on History From Below, their last album. Bushwick Blues here is slower and more thoughtful (here's a similar live version). While the original version is fine, the Waits Room version is more poignant and intimate. The pause before Matthew Vasquez sings the line "after all" takes on a deeper meaning. Devil Knows You're Dead is closer to the same, but it's more stripped down without the drums or electric guitar.

The gentle end of Devil Knows You're Dead and following studio chatter give way to an over the top arrangement of the traditional folk song, John Henry. The music sounds a bit like Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs' Wooly Bully. But the distorted guitar and screamed out lyrics turn this into a late 60's electric blues holler. It's a bit of an odd turn for the EP and I'm not convinced it was a good placement.

The album closes with My Dream, which has some of Jeff Buckley's wistful vocal tone. The soulful beat is a stark contrast to John Henry. The lazy flow helps The Waits Room EP softly slide down. It's a late night sound of cooling coffee after a few beers and chasers.

Fans of Delta Spirit already have The Waits Room EP . If you don't know the band, it's worth a listen and it makes a nice companion piece to History From Below.

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