Delta Wires – If Somebody Told Me…
Mud Slide Records – 2023
10 tracks; 53 minutes
Delta Wires is a Bay area institution, having released seven previous albums over 30 years. The band grew out of leader Ernie Pinata’s college project on the evolution of the blues and the band’s name is intended to reflect the roots of the blues played with modern technology. Pinata handles the vocals and plays harp and is supported by guitarist Richard Healey, bassist Tom Gerrits, drummer Tony Huszar and keyboardist Richard Sylvester; horns are an integral part of the band’s sound, provided by David Bowman (trombone), John Christensen (trumpet) and Caleb Murray (sax). The material here includes three originals written by band members Pinata, Healey, Gerrits, Huszar and Bowman, plus seven covers from a diverse set of sources.
The originals are front-loaded as three of the first four cuts. “Can’t Win For Losin’” is a strong opening track as Pinata leads from the front with searing harp over a bouncing riff well accented by the horns while lyrically the song describes the life of the musician: “always pushing, never giving up the fight”. The title track is a sombre affair, the lyrics reflecting the tragic loss of Pinata’s son, the music a ballad featuring guitar. Pinata is not a great vocalist but all credit to him for stepping up to sing such a personal song, apparently recorded in a single take. The third original is “Bring Me Up”, a song about staying positive, a bouncy jump blues with great piano and a fine horn arrangement, producing a tune to which it’s impossible to stay still; the horns enjoy themselves with short solos for each man.
The covers start with Larry Davis’ “I Tried”, driven by the rhythm section and overlaid with hot horns. “Voodoo Cadillac” is a song by Rick Miller of Southern Culture On The Skids and barrels along well, something of a step away from blues sources but effective, bringing possibly guitarist Healey’s best work of the album. “I Pity The Fool” is a more familiar choice but Pinata is no Bobby Bland! The band tackles two songs associated with Sonny Boy Williamson: “Sloppy Drunk” was also a hit for Lucille Bogan and Delta Wires’ version hurtles along, propelled by the urgent horns while the slow blues “Hand Outta My Pocket” features Pinata’s harp. Sticking to classic blues artists the band gives us a seven minute version of John Lee Hooker’s “Dimples” which is based round the guitar riff but also incorporates some fine harp blowing and horn flourishes. The album closes with a lengthy reading of a Count Basie tune, “Blues In Hoss’ Flat”, but blues fans need not feel scared by the name of a jazz great because this one is a gently swinging blues with a solid base from the rhythm section, over which the horns and harp all get solo spots.
This is an enjoyable album from the veteran San Francisco band and will appeal in particular to those who enjoy bands with strong horn sections.
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