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Delta Spirit History From Below Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Second album of dusty Americana from San Diegan four-piece.

Paul Lester 2010

Delta Spirit are almost an Americana tribute band, such is the apparent joyous regard they have for US rock past and the ease with which they summon up many of its finest exponents. History From Below is a phrase used to denote that version of events experienced by ordinary people, and indeed there are songs here that provide a ground-zero level of observation. But there’s also a sense in which this album offers a version of American rock history from the perspective of the average working man, suggesting that it has been nothing but bar room boogie and good-time country rock all the way. Which, if you trace a line from Creedence Clearwater Revival to The Hold Steady, is exactly what it has been.

Produced by My Morning Jacket’s Bo Koster and Eli Thomson, there are some experimental touches here, such as the treated vocals on Ransom Man and echoey ambience of Devil Knows You’re Dead. But this is mostly no-nonsense high-energy rock’n’roll and rootsy authentic singer-songwriter fare, dominated by Matt Vasquez’s distinctive quavery vocals. The faster numbers such as 9/11 and Bushwick Blues bring to mind a less-rambunctious Replacements or Wilco with fewer production curlicues, while the slower strum-alongs – Vivian, St Francis – recall the Neil Young of Harvest.

Vasquez has been praised for the southern soul quality of his vocals, and it is a flexible instrument – on Scarecrow, he does a fair impression of a back-porch country picker. If you were being unkind, you might say Delta Spirit were derivative as hell, citing a track like Golden State and its lyric about roads that “stretch a thousand miles in every way”. But that’s probably the point of a record that almost serves as a primer of, or introduction to, four decades of American freeway rock for wannabe high plains drifters everywhere.

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