Peter Ward in Fireworks Rock and Metal (Jan-Mar 2020) 93:89
You never quite know what you are going to get with a release billed as Americana. What you get from 'Delta Tales' is a combination of Americana, Southern Soul, and seventies Classic Rock. Under the moniker Sun King Rising, renowned human genetics professor (yes really!) John Blangero aims to capture some of the vibe of Joe Cocker, Leon Russell and Dan Penn. The musicianship is good, with tight rhythm sections, strong guitar playing, classic horn parts and prominent keys and piano work.
The album opens with a cover of Oscar Brown Jr's sixties R&B song 'The Snake', and what an opener it is! Snare and bass drum give way to soulful backing singers and a smouldering lead vocal drenched with great horns. There is a confidence about both the arrangement and the performance that sets the album up well. 'In A State Of Grace' is an atmospheric, harmonically interesting, mid-tempo rocker that allows Blangero's skill as a songwriter to shine through. It's one of many vignettes on the album, set in a southern cultural landscape with easily relatable themes.
The ballad 'Evangeline In The Morning' (co-written with producer Steve Acker from seventies band LAW) is one of Blangero's more emotionally articulate vocals but is all too brief. 'Down The Delta Road' is a poignant love song with a nice violin part and 'Take It Down' is another Acker track with nice guitar work. 'Drive Me To Nashville' with its country influence and sing along hook is a pleasure, while album closer 'Let There Be Light' is a brilliant track that will surely find approval with a range of Melodic Rock / AOR fans. Then there is 'Milkweed And Thistle' and 'Beneath The Southern Sun'- two big tracks I feel I should like far more than I do. Both are guitar led, rocking tracks (the later with an excellent guitar solo) but neither sufficiently pulls me in nor draws me back. Blangero is a good singer, but I don't find some of the tracks as emotive or expressive as perhaps they could be.
Let there be no doubt, I have enjoyed my time with this album. It is a strong debut that leaves me hoping for a great sophomore release.