Markus Kerren at RockTimes (November 12, 2020)
Don't be fooled by the fact that "Delta Tales" is the Sun King Rising project's debut album. Because behind this project is singer, musician, and songwriter John Blangero, a highly experienced man who has been in the music business for decades. He never reached the big time and his name hasn't really spread across the pond, but the Texan's name is well known in the US scene. The recordings for the now available record began in January 2020 and were supposed to be put onto tape with a fixed band. A plan that fell apart again after the Covid pandemic began its global triumph. So our protagonist and the producer Steven 'Ace' Acker had to improvise, and when the disc was finished in May, there were suddenly about twice as many musicians as originally planned.
"The biggest influences on John Blangero before this album were the arrangements, the singing style, and this big band vibe that Joe Cocker and Leon Russell had together fifty years ago!", the boss of Blangero’s record label quoted happily. And this is exactly where “Delta Tales” meets the angels and the devils, good and bad, and black and white. Because what on the one hand can be a good idea, and no mistake at all, can start to crumble if the desired templates are not implemented adequately enough. Well, crumbling doesn't happen here, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always tingle either. There is hardly anything to complain about the quality of the tracks, if something leads to a slight frown, it is when you somehow have the feeling that you have heard these melodies and arrangements somewhere. Thus, a verse of the overall very strong "Milkweed And Thistle" is very reminiscent of an early Lynyrd Skynyrd song or the blessed Ronnie Van Zant in front of the microphone.
The frontman undoubtedly cuts a fine figure with his soulful vocals, even if I wouldn't really compare the ten titles represented here with the Cocker/Russell era, but rather shift them to the Southern Roots Rock corner. With Steve Schuffert, Blangero has a very good guitarist on board, the rhythm department does a great job, and the ladies responsible for the background vocals give the whole thing the finishing touches for a cozy feeling. The Americans vary their tempos skillfully and cleverly, so that after a few rockers, something more contemplative such as "Evangeline In The Morning" or the concluding "Let There Be Light" find their place. The already mentioned "Milkweed And Thistle" with its pearly piano runs and very strong chorus is my favorite of the record, whereby also "Take It Down" (one of the two cover songs on the disc) as well as "Down The Delta Road", "Drive Me To Nashville, "The Snake," and "Beneath The Southern Sun" are all very much liked.
Sun King Rising and "Delta Tales" should be given a dedicated listen, and this debut work is certain to find its friends. With the high number of cited arrangements as well as textual and musical parts, everyone can form their own picture of whether this accords to their taste. An evil spirit would probably bring the word 'calculating' into play, but I don't want to lean that far out of the window. In the end, "Delta Tales" turns out to be a good album, but not a great one. But it will definitely be interesting to see how this story continues.