The acclaimed Nashville band the Delta Saints returns after the critical success of its first studio album, 2013’s Death Letter Jubilee. As its name suggests, this group is all about interpreting the blues, and each track off its sophomore record Bones drips sizzling blues-rock cred. As its title suggests, this album peels away artifice to present a vision of pure American music. The bones aren’t bare, though; the Delta Saints build on the familiar aesthetics of blues, folk, and country to create a lush, abundant sound all their own.
“Sometimes I Worry” rolls in on a fuzzy snare and cobbles together an engagingly hazy blues backup for Ringel’s soulful vocals. Right off the bat it’s clear we’re not in for watered down Zeppelin-clone chamber pop; this track shows off solid musicianship and deep feeling without diminishing either. “Bones,” the album’s title track, brings a sophisticated, modern sensibility to its brand of blues rock thanks in large part to Nate Kremer’s ice-cool organ in the mix. The effect is crisp without being sterile, enhancing the individual elements and making them into more than just empty blues/roots signifiers.
“Heavy Hammer” comes on like a standard country-tinged rocker until a searing piano solo sweeps in and, well, hammers. “Zydeco” expands ever outward, offering up a whirlwind tour of sounds and genres. Starting out with an unaccompanied acoustic guitar, “Butte la Rose” is simple without being bare. Breathy, piercing, poignant, rumbling like Satan’s hooves, this track builds to become a clear standout on an already strong album. “Dust” distorts its chunky guitar riff until it’s as unrecognizable as a mirage on the horizon, and its soaring, shrieking crescendo could make a fly drop dead in midair. This track clearly shows the White Stripes’ influence, but that’s no knock against the Delta Saints. They take that familiar boozy production haze and make it their own.
“My Love” showcases Dylan Fitch’s intricate acoustic playing and stark, effective lyrics the group uses to such powerful effect. The lyrics to “Into the Morning” proclaim, “let the Devil not rejoice in the time that’s taken”, then the song becomes a welcome slice of psychedelia, shaking off the band’s more characteristic grit to ride in the ether. It’s no wonder the Delta Saints are sometimes compared to jamband godfathers My Morning Jacket — a similar echo chamber feeling pervades the work of both bands.
Effortlessly cool and rollicking at once, “Soft Spoken” slides into a raunchy blues register as Ringel croons, “I’ll be your pusher man / I’ll be your sugar cane.” Alternating between blues-rock sexuality and space cadet keyboard lines, this track is a whiplash-inducing ride.
“Berlin” is a driving anthem that dissolves into a dreamy guitar confection and closes the album. Vincent Williams’ dynamic drum work enlivens this song, making its elegiac ending all the more powerful. The Delta Saints’ second album is warm and inviting even as it offers up themes of dread, doubt, and emptiness. The band is becoming even more adept at walking the line between shit-kicking roots rock and electronic exploration. Bones shows a band comfortable in its own shoes and confident in its ability to create innovative, roots-inspired rock ‘n’ roll.