by Jared Iversen
I know what you’re thinking, “Another A album? WGTB has more grade inflation than a high school English class.” Maybe, but Delta Spirit’s sophomore album History From Below is a wonderfully crafted portrait of Americana that is deserving of such praise. The five-piece San Diego band delivers a mature and intelligent album that aims to say something meaningful about life with genuine emotion and conviction.
Musically, the album is a palatable blend of soul, blues, and folk rock, with undertones of Bob Dylan, which alternates between beautifully understated acoustic songs, marked by plucked guitars and sweeping strings, and more heavily instrumented tracks, with amplified guitars, pianos, and kick drums. The true driving force behind the album is lead singer Matt Vasquez, who joined the band when he was discovered serendipitously by drummer Brandon Young singing on a bench at 2 in the morning. His brooding, yet gentle voice delivers the poignant lyrics with a sense of urgency that make even the down tempo songs compelling. Most tracks have a chorus that is easy to sing-along with, often augmented by Vazquez’s backup harmonies, adding to the album’s folksy tone. The best example of this, and probably the album’s top track, is “Golden State,” which grooves around a simple guitar and piano riff, eventually culminating in an outro of “ohhh oh ohhhs.” Other standout tracks include the opener, “911,” a sneering critique of American militarism, and “Ransom Man,” where Vazquez’s tender voice really shines over a plucked guitar and heavily reverbed strings.
However, History From Below is more than just a collection of pleasant sounding folk rock songs, and the lyrics are what make it stand out. With lines like Everyone wants what nobody needs/Silver and gold (“St. Francis”), I want to get an answer/To why I was even born, and the earth is so tender and cruel/Well if you’re not there it’s still so beautiful (“Salt in the Wound”), Delta Spirit explore the cliché themes of life, death, love, and destiny in a cerebral and authentic way. Delta Spirit is a band with a conscience, and they have a lot of ideas worth listening to, especially when Vazquez is singing them.