Delta Rae – After It All

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I’ve followed this band with close interest after hearing them several years back at a music festival in Asheville, NC.  Their vocal power really impressed, and their first CD, Carry the Fire, remains a favorite.   But that was then, and it’s taken three years to produce their sophomore effort. 

In the spectrum that includes my musical tastes, Delta Rae is notable because they are primarily a vocal group.  Ordinarily, I prefer “good” vocals, but mixed with electric guitar solos or other featured instrumentals.  While this band is competent musically, Delta-Rae-After-It-All CD Reviewits strength is found in their song composition/arrangements and the talents of their four vocalists, singly and together.  With After It All, you can add ambition to that as well, and not just because they added a string section.   How else would you qualify an album that begins with an anthem?  With 12 additional tracks, they’ve also taken an unusual tact of compacting their songs, only two of which scratch 4 minutes in length.  One of those is a single (“featured song” in this day and age?), which has been re-recorded and shortened by a minute, 26 seconds.  So it’s intentional.  Maybe it’s because any of the songs have a greater chance of being heard?  Maybe it’s because they frequently perform at outdoor festivals, and this allows them to squeeze in another song or two during their scheduled slot.  Or, maybe that given the variety found here, the album is a miniature play list for people with shorter attention spans. 

Ambition is seen in the variety of what they offer as well, stylistically featuring the strengths of the four singers.  Liz Hopkins tends to get the love and relationship (“Cold Day in Heaven”) songs, which might be pop or country (”Dead End Road”).  Or soulful.  Well, wait.  Maybe this categorization isn’t working.  “Chasing Twisters” is more of a rocker.  Brittany Holljes belting vocals and occasional squeal shine with the rockers and the darker, magical, or mysterious themed songs (“Run,” “Bethlehem Steel,” “I Will Never Die”).  Eric Holljes handles the male voiced relationship songs, usually with a soulful bent (“You’re the One for Me,” “My Whole Life Long”).  And his brother Ian handles anything that requires earnestness, which may be a social commentary song or… anything where his voice is the best answer for the group (“Outlaws,” “Scared” – which compacts a lot of song in 2:44). 

Musically, they’re not formulaic, but a general trend is that a song will begin in quieter tones with a lead singer, and where rock acts will build to the requisite guitar solo, Delta Rae lowers the boom when all four singers join in.  Add to that a very considerate approach of how to make the music interesting with unexpected percussive breaks or vocal fills (“Scared”), and it never gets tiring, even when it doesn’t venture far.

After It All isn’t the perfect album.  “Bethlehem Steel” might have benefitted from a less heavy handed treatment, “Scared” and “Run” deserve an extended hearing, and Ian Holljes’ vocals should be reconsidered when a song calls for notes outside of his comfortable range.  But those are quibbles.  After It All sounds like a recording that was very carefully conceived and recorded by the entire group, and offers the home of many other great albums to come.

4 of 5 STARS_thumb  (4.5, actually)

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