Peter Lindblad at Elmore Magazine (October 18, 2020)
Soaring progressive-rock grandeur meets deeply soulful Southern rock at the crossroads of Delta Tales, where Sun King Rising’s John Blangero—a world renowned genetic scientist—is waiting under an inviting big tent. There in spirit is Leon Russell, surrounded by ghosts of the large, fully loaded bands he used to lead, as Blangero welcomes a biblical Ark full of genres, all lushly arranged under an umbrella of epic Americana elegance and earthiness. Radiant horns, sensual and sassy female backing vocals and Blangero’s dramatic piano lay out a red carpet for adventurous, full instrumentation.
One by one, the songs of Delta Tales make grand entrances, starting with “The Snake,” with its tight, pumping funk gyrations, humid groove, snappy drumming and bursts of shiny brass. A cautionary narrative of a caring, naïve woman who mistakenly gives shelter to an amoral scoundrel, it’s a sinfully delicious slice of Ray Charles-inspired R&B that stops in its tracks when the breathtaking “Milkweed and Thistle” arrives eager to marry its languid ease to sprawling, proggy theatrics and a touch of silvery twang, taking a flying guitar solo for its gaudy wedding ring. The dusty, slowly rendered country of “Down the Delta Road” walks with head bowed, as Delta Tales goes to be baptized in the open-hearted, transformative salvation of a melodic “In a State of Grace” and brood over the smoldering blues of “Take It Down.”
Eventually, Sun King Rising gets to the trail’s end, where the achingly beautiful “Let There Be Light” pours out a life-affirming manifesto for the tired, the weak, the poor and anybody who needs a lift. Produced by Steven “Ace” Acker, co-founder and guitarist of 1970s recording artists LAW, for PeacockSunrise Records, an offshoot of the prog-rock label Melodic Revolution, Delta Tales is, by turns, thunderous and gentle. The soft, luxurious ivories of “Evangeline in the Morning” drown their sorrows in boozy depression and Elton John, while “Love Turns Grey” revisits Stax Records’ heyday for a satisfying fix of sunshine soul and the gripping “Beneath the Southern Sun” drives with melodramatic urgency across rolling terrain like a bat out of hell.
The reference to Meatloaf is intentional and comparisons are unavoidable, although Sun King Rising would probably prefer to be linked with Joe Cocker. Blangero’s passionate, slightly scratched singing certainly recalls Cocker’s hairy delivery. A deluge of unforgettable hooks rains down on the verdant musical kudzu of Delta Tales, washing away the dirt of the day. Feel free to splash around in its puddles.