Online since August 2002

Better than labels

Reviewed May 2010

History from Below
History from Below
By Delta Spirit

Rounder Records: 2010

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

San Diego's Delta Spirit is one of the growing number of musically fertile bands that stands to gain the most from the collapse of the major labels and their fixation on affixing a label to everything.

No one musical style comes immediately to mind for the wonderfully inventive, explorative music found on the tracks of "History From Below," the new Delta Spirit album to be released Tuesday. There's some Southern twang (albeit closer to Widespread Panic than the Allman Brothers), some '70s California rock, some contemporary folk – all of it burnished like the most polished power pop.

It's that combination of catchy songs and exquisite production, but with a bit of a rock underpinning, that makes Delta Spirit's albums so distinctive. The songs are as delicately layered and intricately arranged as the music of Crowded House, but there's a bit of an edge here.

In the end, your loyal critic has no handy label to slap on this album. It's a rock album, but you won't dance to it, not with some of the most beautifully crafted ballads on the current scene. On the other hand, on rockers like "Golden State" or "Bushwick Blues" you won't just be sitting your seat passively listening, either.

Forget the labels and anguishing over which bin the CDs should be in at the record store – all that matters is that it's Delta Spirit music: Thick-pile plush rock candy for your ears.

Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif., and was a contributor to the "Grove Press Guide to Blues on CD" (1993) and "The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Blues" (2005).

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