Delta Wires is a seven-piece California blues band They were literally born in Oakland over 30 years ago as a college project for lead vocalist and harmonica player Ernie Pinata. Born in Oakland is the band’s seventh album and as the press release states, “demonstrates a further maturation of the group’s West Coast blues style.”
California West Coast Blues is different from other styles.. Despite having “Delta” in the band name, there are no delta blues on this album. Just a look at the titles will let you know it is not going to be very heavy: “Sunny Day,” “Vacation,” “Fine and Healthy Thing,” “Fun Time” – does that sound like the sound of the Delta? But this is California blues seeped in the daily ups and downs of city lif in San Francisco. The influences here are more rock and modern jazz and the darkest it gets is “moody,” a word taken from the press release.
The album is definitely harmonica and horn dominated and musically it sounds great. Pinata does some fancy harmonica work. The horn arrangements are reminiscent of the group Chicago back in the day. It’s very bright, clear, and upbeat and sounds good to the ears.
Where the album falters a bit, for me, is in the lyrics and the vocals. Pinata is a strong vocalist with a pleasing voice but all the songs have a slightly sing-song quality and a simple rhyme pattern. it is suitable for this lighter style of blues but very different from the more complex patterns and intense emotions most blues fans expect.
Still, the album is worth listening for the band’s instrumental prowess and for the unusual experience this type of blues provides for those of us outside of California.
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