[19 November 2013]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
The members of the band called the Deltahorse have, according to a press release, never been in the same place at the same time, and this bears out when you learn that the trio is actually transcontinental. Singer-songwriter TJ Eckleberg is originally from Australia, founder Sash is from Europe (Berlin, Germany, to be precise), and Dana Colley is from the eastern United States. Wait just a minute, you might say. Dana Colley? Is that the same Dana Colley who was the saxophonist in the great ‘90s alternative rock-cum-jazz-cum-blues band Morphine? In a word, yes. Colley was roped into this new group when Sash rented a car and breezed through three countries in less than nine hours to make it to a show that Colley was playing at in Slovakia. You see, by late 2011, Sash had been writing songs with Colley in mind and pretty much did what it took to meet him in person and get him into the band. Which, in the end, all does seem rather stalker-ish. But, I guess you gotta do what you gotta do when you have an idea for your art.
Anyhow, the fruits of this collaboration have now come in the form of a debut four song, self-released, available in only digital download format extended play. And, to be honest with you, the main attraction of this short taster is Colley’s baritone sax playing, which, yes, sounds exactly as it did in the more famous band he was in. Added to that is some down-and-dirty slide guitar – not quite in the same vein as the two-string slide bass guitar playing of Morphine’s late, lamented Mark Sandman, but close enough, I guess – and it does add an appealing country flavour to the proceedings. Alas, the weak link here is Eckleberg’s singing. His voice is thin and reedy, and doesn’t add much to the material. Additionally, the problem with this EP is that it’s too short to really give you an idea of what the group is capable of. Blink and you’ll miss it. While the Deltahorse shows glimmers of having an interesting sound – there’s even disco-like strings added to “The Guy Who Walks Away”, which could be an alternate world soundtrack to a James Bond movie with its debonair feel – perhaps their material is best suited towards an album-length canvas. At the end of the day, The Deltahorse EP has some intriguing songs, but they’re just a collection of random songs, and, as a whole, the package just doesn’t hit you between the eyes in the way you hope it would. Better luck next time, and maybe hire a new vocalist while you’re at it.