Today, Delta Spirit will embark on a journey that will find them many new fans . Their sophomore album, History From Below, is one of the finest albums you’ll hear this year. Inspired by Howard Zinn’s novel “A People’s History of The United States,” the album is a giant step forward and an accomplishment I thought them incapable of achieving.
I was a fan of their self-produced debut, Ode To Sunshine, but this release trumps it in every way – songwriting, instrumentation, production, arrangement, musicianship, and intellect. It’s theme may be consistent with Zinn’s novel, but the songs are varied with lively, Springsteen-ish piano/guitar driven anthems and reflective, vintage Waits-style Americana ballads. The latter is fitting, considering the band recorded in Cotati, CA at a studio thrice occupied by Tom Waits for different albums.
The album starts with the politically charged “9/11,” a cheerful song that belies its subject matter. The driving electric guitars in “Bushwick Blues” follow, building into a climax with Matt Vasquez’s screeching vocals bleeding into a dramatic guitar solo.‚ “White Table” showcases percussion comparable with what you’d hear from modern day contemporaries like The Dodos or Local Natives. With the exception of the pop gem, “Golden State,” the rest of the album glows with slow-moving Americana folk-rock.
It’s these songs that captivate me. “Devil Knows Your Dead” is a dreamy blessing, reminiscent of old Irish prayers with lines like “May the wind be always at your back/ And the sun shine warm upon your face” and “May the road, may it rise beneath your feet/ And be downhill all the way to your door.”
“Vivian” was written for Matt’s grandparent’s who died during the band’s first two tours. You can watch the video below and listen to his words. I won’t be able to do that one justice with a description. “St. Francis” follows combining near-perfect lyrics,‚ fiery vocals, harmonica, country-western guitars, and horns to create an intensity that’s palpable.
And finally, this carefully crafted body of work is finished with 8 minutes of glory that is “Ballad of Vitaly.” History From Below was released today and I can’t say enough good things. I’ve seen the band live and loved their debut, but this release shows that they mean business and proves that they are well beyond ordinary.
Video: The Delta Spirit – Vivian (KEXP Session)
Video: The Delta Spirit – St. Francis (via The Alternate Side)