KARYN: Having listened to Delta Tales countless times over the past year and having heard the new songs for Signs & Wonders develop throughout 2021, I was curious about the thought process behind each record. I hear the storytelling within the new songs clearly, as I do with Delta Tales. I wanted to know more about the similarities and differences between the two albums. So, who better to answer my questions than the artist himself—Sun King Rising (aka, John Blangero)? JOHN: Karyn has asked me to explain my thinking about SKR’s upcoming second album and how it differs from the debut album, Delta Tales (“DT”). The new album is titled Signs & Wonders (“S&W”). We have been recording it since January.
Both DT and S&W are steeped in southern soul and southern rock. The biggest difference is in the quality of songs. Much of DT I wrote throughout the ten-year period prior to the album when I was developing my skills as a songwriter. Three songs on DT (Beneath the Southern Sun, Milkweed and Thistle, and Free Will in China Blue) I wrote late in the recording process. They are my favorites. They are the best songs on the album…musically more sophisticated and lyrically more satisfying to me.
I started writing new material shortly after recording Free Will in China Blue.
S&W extends the grand themes of DT with a focus on southern narratives. The symbolically dyadic title, Signs & Wonders, refers to the two primary genres influencing my compositions -- soul and rock. The songs on S&W fall into these categories. Several are hybrids. I refer to some characters and events across multiple songs.
For instance, Jubal Takes a Wife and She Was a Blonde together constitute a single Southern Noir portrayal of betrayal and murder. Blonde is the sequel to Jubal. Two songs, one story.
Iconic images of the pastoral South set the scene for many of the new songs—colorful narratives with unique story lines and compelling character development. Lanterns on the Levee, for instance, is about Mississippi’s Great Flood of 1927. We have several straight-up soul stompers complete with horn sections and a heavenly choir of Pittsburgh Angels: Bitter Waters Sweetened, No. 6 Magnolia Avenue, Low Wine and a Cruel Ruin, and Mr. Right Now.
Others, like Anchorless, Alabama Nocturne, and Buried in the Blues Again—are evocative stories of the human struggle.
On the sonic side of the street, we put together a core group of top Pittsburgh players, singers, and arrangers – the Sun King Rising Studio Band—and recorded in only one studio: David Granati’s Maplewood Studio in Ambridge, PA.
It was the players themselves -- fabulous musicians all – who planted the seed of the S&W sound within Maplewood, a sound now blooming into a fully-developed, nearly-finished album.
S&W features my best songs to date, the Sun King Rising Sound we hope to take on the road after its release in early summer of 2022.
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