The Deltaz’s biography alone charms. The Nashville-via-Los Angeles roots duo is a genuine brotherhood, comprising siblings Ted (vocals, guitar) and John (vocals, drums, harmonica) Siegel, whose blood ties infuse their songs with a preternatural in-the-pocket rhythm and fraternal harmonies. Then there are the years they spent playing California dives– including a 9-year residency at a bar called The Old Place– woodshedding, learning, and making additions to the Americana songbook. Finally, there’s The Secostream, their mobile recording studio, a converted ‘60s Airstream trailer the Siegel’s used to record their latest record, Turn It Back.
Thankfully, The Deltaz get by on more than just an endearing backstory. They’ve spent their career crafting songs that nod in the direction of their heroes– Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, John Mayall, and Harlan Howard– but sometimes get knee-deep in the swamp or dusted up, as in the case of the album’s first single, “I’ve Been Rejected”, whose litany of ass-kickings and no-gos is a paean to the reign of Outlaw Country, where hard drinking and fisticuffs were de rigueur. Here, our hero’s been 86ed, but he’s forever unapologetic, grinning, and none the wiser. We’re just grateful for the story.
Elsewhere, the Siegels flash their jukebox sensibilities, a hard-won versatility acquired from years of taking barroom requests. The slinky “Panhandle Pioneer” and scuffed-up cowpunk of “Red Flag” demonstrate the band’s capacity for grit, but it’s on the album’s second half that the band gets truly greasy. The instrumental “Drumonica” plays as the duo’s unofficial manifesto, a lean, dialed-in strut built on negative space and swagger. “Jig Jig Woman” offers their take on a classic blues trope—the masochistic sucker-fool who knows better, but never says no: “Jig jig woman, why’d you have to shake so good/Shake me and break me, like I knew you would.” Yet it’s the title track where The Deltaz hold their own with the other neo-roots two-pieces, opening with a skronk guitar and a relentless thud before giving way to a “Train Kept A-Rollin’”-style riff that reshapes the groove.
As dirty as The Deltaz get, it’s their gentler numbers that are the real showcases for the brothers’ talents and songcraft, where their penchant for storytelling shines. The wrenching “Lost in the Wind” sounds as if it were written on a bar napkin about the regular who’s sitting next to you, a lost cause waiting for last call. The aching “That Night” fixates on a moment in time our singer returns to over and over. Whether it’s the beginning or ending of something doesn’t seem to matter anymore– the narrator has found a home in the ambiguity.
Perhaps “I Went Away Too Much” is the song that lingers the longest, a track whose causal, tossed-off rhythm betrays its story of a love that’s no match for wanderlust or time. When the song begins, the couple is 21 and in love, but with each new verse, someone’s walking away, possibly for good. And then it hits them: They’re not just growing apart; they’re growing older. It all makes you want to stay in for the night.