Delta Rae – Carry the Fire

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In researching the bands playing at Asheville’s Bele Chere, I took to YouTube to sort out the wheat from the chaff.  Other than stylistic preferences, there wasn’t a whole lot of chaff.  The problem was that there was a lot of sameness that didn’t lead to any clear preferences, based on the incredible research implied by a full song (or less) per band.  One band, though, stood out:  Delta Rae.  I hit several of their YouTube songs, as such things are measured.  The problem was that even though I had circled their name, by the time the weekend rolled around, I couldn’t remember what had caught my ear.

Holy Smokes.


I’m a guitar guy – I like instrumentals, blues, progressive rock... I don’t listen to the radio.  One song into their set, I have no regrets.  Three songs... I’m a fan.  Four... I’m buying their CD at the end of the show.  Five... I’m hanging around for autographs.  And this for what is best described as a vocals band.


This band does (most) everything right.  I’ll start with variety.  Song styles vary from soul, folk rock, gospel, pop, rock...  it’s really pointless when all of it is better characterized as “awesome.”

Cover song:  How about Fleetwood Mac’s “Chain”? I never heard Fleetwood Mac live, way back when or more recently.  I honesty don’t know that they could sing this song as well as Delta Rae did.

Audience interaction:  This is a pet peeve of mine, stemming back to a Steve Winwood show where he interacted by saying either “Thank you” or “Thank you very much.”  At least for this show, they offered what inspired some of their songs, some of their history, etc.  They relate extremely well.

Songwriting:  Most of their songs are formulaic only in the sense that one of their four singers will lead off, and it will gradually build to powerful ensemble harmonies.  The details, though, reveal purposeful lyrics, variety in subject matter, instrumental appropriateness, and occasional musical changeups to add distinctiveness to their songs.


Raw singing talent: Three of the four singers are siblings.  The brothers (Ian and Eric Hölljes) play piano and guitar and write the songs.  They sing well and set a strong basis for the ladies’ voices to rise above.  Liz Hopkins handles the lower register, with a soulful, warm, and emotive voice.  The other sibling, Brittney, delivers the high end, powerfully when needed.  Mixed together... perfection.


Audience appreciation:  Complete your planned set list with stage time still available?  Observe that the fans aren’t leaving?  Well, go back out and figure out a few more songs to sing.  Audience buy-in?  Check. 

Performance:  Jaw dropping.  There are ample performers who drink beer or other spirits during their shows.  This band has vitamin water.  They need it, because they don’t leave anything on the stage.  “Chain,” “Fire,” and particularly their trademark song, “Bottom of the River,” with the chain against a trashcan and heel stomping delivery...  Wow.  Just wow.  


And their one flaw is that the power of the band live does not translate as well within the studio.  Don’t get me wrong, Carry the Fire is far better than a token concert memento.  I hear great things when I listen to it.  But it’s impossible for me to listen without the inner ear tuning in to what I heard live.

I really hope the best for this band, because I want to hear more from them.  If there’s a worry, it’s that they’ll lose their approachability with audiences as they rise to fame.  Solution:  Go see them now. 

Full set of photos can be seen HERE.

Editorial:  It’s with some amusement I note that their Wiki indicates they’ve opened up for Edwin McCain and Hanson.  They’ll be begging to open for Delta Rae some day soon.


5 of 5 STARS




4 of 5 STARS






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