Before you listen to this album, allow me to share my favourite ever self-description of a band: "[The Delta Jacks] sound like a Royal Rumble wrestling match between Johnny Cash, Slim Cessna's Auto Club, Howlin' Wolf, Elvis, The Violent Femmes and a few other bands we treasure deep within our twisted souls". Thanks guys, intro sorted. Wait what? There's more? The Delta Jacks aren't short of pungent imagery for their music, claiming they're so far from the middle of the road, that they're more or less in the ditch!
Their debut album Trouble Ahead is a hootin' hillbilly, raw rockabilly and awesome anything-else-a-billy of an effort, guaranteed to get you tappin' them toes. The Delta Jacks sound like they've come straight down from modern Appalachia, but in fact they hail from the Thames Delta in Northern Essex, UK. They'd still look and sound comfortable plucking away in any Western bar out in the States anyhow!
On the surface you might say this raucous record sounds lacking in the sky-high production values we're used to in modern music, but I can tell you that's not the case when you scratch a little deeper. In fact Trouble Ahead is full of fantastically complex little banjo rolls, chunky guitar riffs and tight drum beats. Besides, that mountain music style is traditionally stripped back and laid out on the porch with a jug, harmonica and some spoons. The Delta Jacks put me in plain mind of Brighton-based 'billy bluegrass boys The Curst Sons, each band crunching out in-your-face lyrics and driving rhythms.
The Delta Jacks are picking up regard for their high energy live performances, encompassing western fashion favourites like the stetson and boot-lace tie - just a small reason to go and see them live. I have to confess I haven't been to see them play, but will go for sure after listening to Trouble Ahead. The title track explains itself really. For me it invokes the image of an out of control steam train hurtling towards a crumbling bridge - with the engineer screaming "TROUBLE AHEEEEAD!".
Other standout tracks include chain-gang style "Blackened Heart Blues"; delivered with a solid swagger, whilst "Alabama" is a whimsical float down a sticky swamp channel. The Delta Jacks are a good time band, that's clear from the 20+ play throughs this album has had in my car. So what better way to finish a hootin' hillbilly, raw rockabilly and awesome anything-else-a-billy album, than with the heavy rockin' guitar of "Go Go Go"?
Regrettably I'm going to have to lease this CD to my old man now, I'd feel guilty and selfish for hogging all the fun! The Delta Jacks don't have a website at the time of writing this review, but I'd recommend checking out their Facebook to see if they've got any dates near you, as they look and sound like a great night out. If Trouble Ahead is anything to go by, then I can't wait for their next album to come steamrolling out!
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