When a regional band produces a debut CD, it usually falls into one of two categories. Either they cover a variety of familiar favorites in order to appeal safely to a wider audience, or else they’ll lean heavily on original material in order to carve out their own stylistic niche.
Delta Reign, a quartet from coastal Alabama, has split the difference on their inaugural CD
The album’s 14 tracks include a significant number of easily recognizable pieces, such as “White House Blues,” “Southbound,” and “High On A Mountain.” But half of their song choices are originals, most from the pen of lead singer/rhythm guitarist Benita Murphy. The mix actually works in the band’s favor, letting them prove their bluegrass “legitimacy” by handling some standards, but still giving listeners new and old a chance to hear what makes the group distinctive. It doesn’t hurt that Murphy acquits herself well as a lead singer, and with some tasty support from her husband, Pat Murphy, on banjo, as well as fiddler George Mason, Home is a reasonably impressive debut album.
Some of the promotional material accompanying this release emphasizes some of the subtle swing influences in the rhythmic approach brought in by Benita Murphy and bassist Joshua Faul, but there’s very little that would make a bluegrass purist squirm. A nice retake of Jim Eanes’s “Baby Blue Eyes” as a loping swing tune works well at blending one tradition with another, as does a lively version of “Beaumont Rag.” So, if you’d like to hear some fresh and lively fiddle and banjo turns on “Farewell Blues” or “Beaumont Rag,” you’ve come to the right place. And if you want to hear a talented new band introduce you to some new voices, both singing and writing (with special kudos to the pretty ballad “Thankful”), Home can also be a place for your ears to take a rest. (Benita Murphy, 8319 Cottage Hill Rd., Mobile, AL 36695, www.deltareign.com.) HK