Delta Rae,
After It All
(Sire Records, 2015)

Delta Rae's Carry the Fire was one of my favorite albums from 2012; actually, it doesn't date -- it's one of my favorite albums, period. So, of course, I approached the new one, After It All, with anticipation: how would it live up to the first one?

The answer is quite well, indeed. It doesn't repeat the themes and styles of Carry the Fire, instead choosing to go its own way, striking out in a new direction. Like Robert Frost's protagonist, it takes the road less chosen, the road that wanders in and out of the labyrinth, until it finally emerges at the destination you were not aware you were headed for.

From Carry the Fire, Delta Rae keeps the energy and the bigness, the thundering percussion, the rising chorus of voices, the wonderful four-part harmonies and the excellence in songwriting. This one rocks a little harder, though. Elements of rock, jazz and hip-hop creep unexpectedly into the arrangements, and the wall of sound these guys create would sometimes seem, in lesser hands, bombastic.

"Anthem," which kicks off the record, for example, starts with a repeated piano figure that leads into a single voice singing a verse before everything swells and a seeming huge, gorgeously arranged chorus fills the room. All in 1:23.

"Chasing Twisters," which appeared on the band's EP of that name, reappears here with its metaphor of love and life being a chasing of tornadoes, and "Bethlehem Steel," a song about the closing of Baltimore's steel plants, symbolizes the closing of the American dream in a raucous, driven uptempo number, heavily percussive and hard charging, that slips in a quiet middle eight for contrast. It's a fine song.

Delta Rae, with its four lead singers, two women and two men, might be described as Fleetwood Mac meets Rusted Root, with harmonies inspired by the Mamas & the Papas. That description gets you into their neighborhood but they are better described as original.

And wonderful.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

1 Aug. 2015

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