Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Danny Reisch at Good Danny's, Austin, Texas
The session you're about to listen to is the two-thousand and first session that we've posted on this site. We considered making it the 2000th, to commemorate the milestone - that round number - with this band of brothers whom we've become incredibly close with over the last seven years. We thought hard about it and then decided that they should be the one right after the ceremonial number, a nod to the continuation of what we do daily and to a friendship that goes beyond a band and its songs. Without getting sentimental, these guys - who just happen to be THE BEST LIVE ROCK AND ROLL BAND IN THE WORLD - are some of the most decent human beings you're ever to find. They are our friends in arms and everything else. Matt Vasquez sings on the band's latest and sublime, self-titled new album, "Happiness comes at the strangest times," and sometimes it doesn't come at all. We never get used to one or the other and it's why listening to and experiencing Delta Spirit do what they do and live the way they live always hits us in the most meaningful ways. Without retracing my steps, please find below what I think are the best words I ever wrote about them from a few years ago.
"Salvation is often looked upon as something that is needed at the end of your wick, when the pool of hot, molten wax collecting around your ankles is taking you down with it, when everything's numbered and your voice and heat are being ripped from you, either gradually or as if death is late for another engagement. When a person gets to that point, when the lights in front are high beams and as blinding as car bonnet reflections at noontime of any summer day, escaping transgressions and sins is far-fetched. You lie in that bed, sharing covers with them, likely getting them hogged from you. Before the curtains drop, there's that option of begging out of the things that one feels regret about.
These smudges and smears, small and otherwise, are felt as knots in our veins, clouding our lives, but having held onto them for such a long time might have hastened this plea to be rid of them. Sometimes it doesn't take so long to want to yearn for salvation, for redemption and a blank slate. Sometimes new life and clean spirits, a soul unburdened, can happen with the appropriate soul to start off with. These can get thrown and mangled through the course of clocking in and out from one nightfall to the next sunrise, blurring the lines between who does and who doesn't deserve or require saving. San Diego band Delta Spirit invests a lot of time contemplating the variants that these human hearts of ours - of all stripes - have to endure to get to those winter days of life, fallen beneath the tires and fading light, without being heavy boulders that would take armies to lift or ease.
The band makes documents of very exact times, of breakthroughs and clearances, of pinpointing where the smoke is coming from and taking the necessary steps to trounce the bleakness and flames. It's also about dancing around those fires, letting the runaway sparks flicker to the black sky to die with glory, freed from the cooking piece of wood being charred to its own death.
This is recovery - or maybe that's what we should consider hopefulness. It's more realistic. It's what we can all find or reach. Vasquez wrestles with many of the dense, plodding, multi-faceted issues that settle into our skin, hearts and hair like cockle burrs - pesky gnats all of them, but some also become the dangerous elephants in the room. Those the band peoples its songs with are often down-and-out in some sort of way, put they've always got their flashlights with them. They remember their ways to the exits, or just back to the front door where they came from, where the roses and the friendly faces were left waving to us. The band, with it's bluesy soul ethos and impassioned verve, are monitors of the way that scars start and more so the quick and easy ways that scars heal given the appropriate conditions and air. It is a proponent of looking on the brighter side of everything despite there often being a deficit of light bulbs. They invigorate from the inside out, giving you what they have churning around within their own flesh and blood walls, insisting that they can perk things up just by being themselves and they're mostly right. There is so much life involved with everything that they do and just in the last year, it's seemingly multiplied into this quasar that is bound for a full-on bloom. They say, without saying it, "If you ain't livin', you're dyin'," and yet sometimes the little deaths find their spaces. Vasquez sings, "Songs that have lost their luster/Finally, they found their color," and separately in another song, "This world is fucked, just as you have become," and he's suggesting that salvation makes up it's own mind. We can steer the wheel the best we can, but it decides who to pardon. The way these songs and their eyes crackle, there's little worry which side of the ledger they'll fall on."