Delta Generators

Delta Generators
Devil In The Rhythm

By Bill Copeland
September 2008

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The Delta Generators are onto something, and it might be something big.

This blues quartet from Worcester won the Boston Blues Challenge a few weeks back, and they should have a good shot of doing well at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in February.

This is a blues band that gets by on the strength of its youthful interpretation of traditional Delta blues idioms. While the Delta Generators may stretch their blues to other musical genres such as oldies and classic rock, their playing styles and vocal approach are all solidly in the Mississippi tradition.

Unlike the classic rock bands from the late 1960s and early 1970s that expanded and manipulated and injected blues into their rock sound, the DG’s clearly win the tug o’ war in blues favor.

Vocalist-harmonica player Craig Rawding, a veteran of many local bands, writes all the lyrics with striking visual imagery. His song and title track, “Devil In The Rhythm,” is the disc’s best track. It sings the praises of early rock and roll pioneers before crying out for a new savior: “Well, I may be stubborn, stuck in the past/But it seems a long time since some young mule kicked some ass.”

Rawding is a natural blues belter - gravelly, deep, and earthy – as though he really grew up in Mississippi. And like many other tracks here, guitarist Charlie O’Neal’s guitar notes are drenched in the style and picking of the Mississippi greats.

The opening track, “Hand Me Down Blues,” is an admonition song to a friend who has worn out his welcome with his miserable personal problems. Rawding delivers the Delta Generator’s mood and attitude right off the bat: “You’ve been down so long I don’t remember what I liked about you.”

Rawding puts raw passion into his verses to capture the frustration of dealing with these types. O’Neal’s crunchy, Delta-drenched guitar slides add an extra layer of emotion. While lyrics, vocal, and guitar are strictly blues, the rhythm section keeps it moving in a classic rock band clip - a fusion that works while sparking an alluring dissonance and tension.

Every track on their debut CD has something to offer.

“That Evil” continues this fusion with a bopping, driving rhythm. Drummer Tim Armstrong rolls out the thunder in a John Bonham style, even though singer and guitarist sound like modern day versions of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.

“Bone Orchard Blues” features a lot of Rawding’s harmonica phrases.

“Read My Letter” marries a mellow blues guitar lead to a shuffling beat. “Never Satisfied” grinds out a Delta rhythm that grows into a tapestry of thick, muddy low ends.

“Straw Dog Strut” is a humorous piece about bringing down someone who lacks substance in life: “When I strike one of my matches, look what you’ve got.” That has to be one of the wittiest and meanest lyrics ever.

“All Good Things Must Come To An End” has O’Neal’s guitar winding its way around Rawding’s gravelly baritone vocal, and both lay it down smoothly over Armstrong’s marching beat.

Listeners may start comparing the Delta Generators’ sound to classic rock bands that experimented with blues idioms. Eventually, though, closer listens will reveal that these boys from Worcester are blues first, before they reach into other elements. It’s the rhythm section that controls this metamorphous from blues into blues mixed with classic rock, oldies, and blue country. Who says that bass players and drummers who have to be sidemen? Armstrong, the drummer, and bassist Rick O’Neal (Charlie’s brother,) are cornerstones of a full band sound.

Organic and fun, the Delta Generators should be able to pull a lot of music fans into their buzz.

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