Duncan Morrow [Released 16.04.14]
Duncan Morrow & The Delta Curve are clear about who they are musically and their role as an essential link to the present: “We are not a rock band trying to play hill country blues; we are a Hill Country Blues Band. That is all you need to know”.
Crank up this album and you’ll soon be seduced by the idea that it was Hill Country Blues that kick started rock blues. And while that is only partly true, there’s an essential crossover feel in their music that makes a connection between the past and present, though the argument about whether Hendrix was a blues man is an altogether different conversation, though probably not one the band would probably argue with.
‘Coming Home’ is an album rooted in Hill Country Blues but that doesn’t stop Duncan and his trio from jamming their way through their blues heritage via Hendrix and into electric blues. The core of their music is based on seamless interplay and the way they draw on the past and bring it right up to date without swamping the essence of their delta roots in either volume or electric guitar excess.
The opening harp led ‘Delta Stomp’ splendidly lives up to its name with insistent train- time rhythms topped by dirt sounding blues harp playing from Cactus. It’s got a hypnotic quality that lodges in the memory bank and serves as a cushion for what follows.
‘Hideaway’ is a Down-Home tune with whispered vocals over an acoustic and makes its point elementally in a call for a moment quiet reflection: “Where can I hideaway? Where can I sit and rest for a minute, forget all the mess and the day?”
Coming from such young musicians it’s a surprising meeting of maturity and the blues.
The trio picks things up on the finger picking intro of ‘Someday Baby’, which imperceptibly slides into a dirt toned boogie with a pulsating drum beat from Stud Ford (Grandson of T-Model Ford). The song is fleshed out by dual guitars and an authentic blues vocal, before it transforms itself into an extended jam with Allman Brothers influences.
And it’s that fusion of old and new that makes this album so interesting. Duncan pays due homage to the past and then roots it in the present, as his band snakes it’s way through a joyous workout that thrillingly returns to the dobro intro with a flourish.
‘Get Out’ is a blues conversation between harp and electric guitar, which is nicely shaped by Stud. Duncan takes things on with some trebly guitar lines and coruscating licks before the Cactus returns to the mix with a dirt harp tone on the outro.
‘Legacy’ is a journey through a number of the band’s blues influences, opening in a slow blues format and slipping into a shuffle blues shifting the album’s reverential feel to flat out intensity. And having reached that point, Duncan goes for broke with his own take on Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child’, as if to suggest that having covered the origins of Hill Country Blues, he’s exploring a direct link to Hendrix. But while his wah-wah guitar playing evokes Hendrix’s excitement, his vocals fail to capture Jimi’s nuance.
The aptly titled ‘Settling In’ is a bass-led groove on which the arc of piercing guitar notes dominates the accompanying harp, while Duncan shakes off his understated opening vocal to attack the second verse with gusto. His own second solo is also much more frenetic, as the number again builds in intensity.
The closing ‘Down To The Delta’ is Crossroads revisited, but the album as a whole is illuminated by inspired playing and a clear vision of both the roots and future of Hill Country Blues. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00
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