A Thousand Turns
A Thousand Turns is the third album from Americana band The Delevantes, helmed by New Jersey brothers Bob (the main writer) and Mike (lead guitarist). They are a band that first appeared in the mid-‘90s in the early gestation of Americana but many thought they disappeared as their previous album, Postcards from the Edge dates to 1997. During this lengthy hiatus Bob issued three solo albums, honed his harmonica skills, and collaborated with Mike on three co-writes that appear here. These guys keep very good company, once again enlisting Boss bassist Gary Tallent on that instrument and as co-producer, with the brothers and with Dave Coleman who adds his multi-instrumental talents as well. Nashville go-to drummer Bryan Owings along with keyboardist Jody Nardone and horn player (sax and trumpet) John Painter.
Their trademark chiming, jangling guitar sound kicks in immediately on the bouncy love song “All in All” with nods to their Jersey roots – “The boardwalk clatters and shakes/the band rocks and roll ‘til late/there’s no place I’d rather be/dancing, dancing you and me.” It’s as if the 24-year hiatus is wiped out in three and half minutes. The Delevantes will remind many of the early Jayhawks with their natural gift for hooks, intelligent lyrics, vocal harmonies, and jangling guitars. Inevitably, brother harmonies evoke comparisons to The Everly Brothers and Mike’s use of the 12-string guitar reminds a bit of The Byrds too. The single “Little by Little,” for which there is an accompanying video, follows in similar infectious style as one hears the palpable joy of two brothers singing together again. It even has a Dylan-like harmonica break. “Short Bed Blues” changes the groove into a roadhouse burner, highlighted by Bob’s blues harp.
Like most of the music we associate with New Jersey, these are mostly plainspoken songs about life in a working-class town. but they have a knack for love songs too. Like “All in All,” The Light of Your Eyes” looks at love from a mature perspective. “Dear Kate” pays tribute to a friend’s lost daughter, with sparkling 12-string, spicy horns and an animated beat keeping it from being funereal. The yearning “Deeper Shade of Blue,” the best co-write with brother Mike, wrestles the melancholy down to the point where one feels the protagonist will emerge relatively unscathed. Other highlights (and there are no weak spots on this album) include “If You Let It,” “A Lot on My Mind,” the co-write with Kim Richey, “Every Sunset,” and the closer “I See.”
We’d be remiss, however, not to mention the one political track, “The Junkman,” which upon a quick inspection of a few lyrics, it’s clear who they are referencing – “The Junkman’s a liar, a con man, a fraudster, a cheat/He’ll steal the car right out from under you as you drive down the street/You know it was running just fine/But he and his boys had something else in mind/In the blue of the blowtorch glow/Blowtorch glow/The junkman’s running the show.” So, while the album gives mostly a vibe of mature innocence, they summon up some angst and anger about #45 here.
The brothers pick up right where they left off as their song-oriented approach, superb backing, and jangling sound proves timeless. The Delevantes have delivered one of the top roots albums of this year. Let’s hope they don’t stay away so long before we hear another.
- Jim Hynes