Take a good, hard listen to the Focal Point feature on Pittsburgh’s own public radio station, WYEP, half way through the morning every day of the week and tell me if it excites you. The station’s format is folk-based but bloated with mediocre, adult contemporary singer/songwriters pawning off their tame and expected catalog with about as much fervor as my high school librarian quietly telling me that silence, for all intents and purposes, is golden.
I want my Folk to preach from the pulpits, all shaking fists and damnation, letting out throaty roars of radicalism saved for a world in which normalcy has mutated into a soma induced haze. This shit used to be protest music, never static, constantly pointing out the winds of change to those of us who were just waking up. The folk scene of the mid-20th century was an egalitarian community motivated by social change, intellect, and the fucking will of the human spirit. It was the cultivation of constant progress.
Enter The Delta Spirit, five Californians who churn out passionate folk like they were rehearsing for their set at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963. Their August 2008 release, Ode to Sunshine, is an end to end burner, heating up like a towering bonfire in the middle of a frozen wood. Circled around the pit, these guys bring their faces close to the flame, slapping their knees and smiling proudly as they look to the stars and yell at the moon. Lead singer Matthew Vasquez trembles and throbs as he bounces off the constraints of each song, ready to set off a hearty howl as his band lets loose with dusty pianos, tambourines, hi-hat smashes, and liquored up guitar riffs.
“Children shut your eyes,” Vasquez sings late on the album with the stunner “Children,” “…We’ll tell you what to see/the world is burning down/and your the ones to lead.” This track makes no apologies for its call to action, following the instruction with strict guidance, “follow down the road/I was led before you were born.”
With Fleet Foxes leading the Indie Folk charge this past year, The Delta Spirit bring some much needed verve and power to the scene. The sense of community on their debut LP is palpable, with every pounding, drum beat leading way. The choruses beg to become anthems, shouted in the back of taverns as rallying cries and fightin’ words. However, it remains to be seen if their show at the Brillobox in Lawrenceville on the 17th of February can ignite a mid-winter thaw across this town. But if Pittsburgh can’t appreciate some wide-eyed, Californian optimism with a fire lit under its ass in the dead of winter, I am truly concerned for the current state of this city. I for one wouldn’t mind warming my hands from the heat.
Check out the Shows page for details on The Delta Spirit’s concert in Pittsburgh.