By Samantha Wu
Delta Rae, the six-piece band from Durham, North Carolina, is bar none creating some of the most compelling and innovative music to hit the American rock circuit as of late. The band, comprised of siblings Ian, Eric and Brittany Holljes along with Elizabeth Hopkins, Mike McKee, and Grant Emerson, is a multi-vocal, multi-instrumental dynamo that write, record, and perform with such soul, passion, and heart that it’s near impossible to not get swept up and lost in. Their sophomore album, After It All, released earlier this month is further proof to what this band is able to accomplish.
Admittedly there was much from After It All that I had heard previously having seen them take to Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern stage last year. That did not make listening to this album any less exciting. Play any of their powerhouse songs – “Bethlehem Steel”, “I’ll Never Die”, “Chasing Twisters” or even “Outlaws” and it’s near impossible not to get hooked. With all the strength packed into those songs, it’s simply infectious.
When you look at Delta Rae as an outfit, visually they appear to be quite the All-American band – reflective in their music which fuses various styles from classic American rock to intoxicating southern gothic, big band and a dose of pop-country. It may sound like a strange brew but all you need to know is it works. There’s also an air of American history merged into their tunes as well. “Bethlehem Steel” tells the story of the Holljes’ siblings’ dad who used to work at the Bethlehem Steel Company before the company shut their doors for good and left a generation of hard-working blue-collared Americans out in the cold.
On this album, the song I’m most excited for has to be “I’ll Never Die”, the direct follow up to “Bottom of the River” from their debut album. The two songs tell the story of a witch trial – in the beginning, the witch is sentenced to death by drowning but not before she curses the first born sons of the townsfolk. After her death, she tells her followers how to resurrect her spirit, for she will never die. This is one of the reasons why Delta Rae is unique – not many bands are willing to take that creative leap and “go there”. As for the song, it’s morosely beautiful and Brittany’s voice soars.
After It All sees Elizabeth Hopkins taking the lead more often, which is wonderful. Where Brittany Holljes’s voice can be light and airy with the roar of a lioness behind it, Elizabeth’s pipes have a raspy, smoky, old soul quality to them. When the two ladies take to background vocals their voices play off each other’s beautifully. As a solo vocalist, Elizabeth brings a rawness that works really well on “Chasing Twisters” and “Cold Day in Heaven”.
Delta Rae is one of the best bands you’ve probably never heard of and it’ll do you well to get acquainted with their unique sound that you won’t soon forget and give After It All a listen. Once you’ve done that, be sure to check out the show they’re playing at The Rivoli in Toronto on April 21. You’re welcome.