History From BelowDELTA SPIRIT

History From Below


There are lots of great indie-rock acts out there, but do you want some morose shoegazers playing your July 4 picnic? Better to hire the Delta Spirit, a San Diego quintet that delivers its smart, contemplative Americana with a dash of self-awareness and an occasional smile. The band cut History From Below, its sophomore album, at the California studio favored by Tom Waits, a choice that hardly seems coincidental. When he’s not channeling Bob Dylan—the inspiration behind the veritable “Don’t Think Twice” rewrite “Scarecrow,” among other songs—singer Matt Vasquez plays scrubbed-up versions of Waits-style underdogs—guys with holes in their shoes as well as their hearts. When the group is cooking, as on the rollicking opener “911,” it deftly juggles populist politics, old-timey musicianship and modern indie energy. The ballads are spottier, sometimes collapsing under the weight of their woe-is-me sentiments, but the band scores big with closer “Ballad of Vitaly,” a Russian true-crime tale that remains captivating for all eight of its minutes.


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