Black River Delta Step Outside Tradition with Explosive Blues-Rock Sounds on ‘Shakin’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

One of the great things about the blues is the range. The style spans from the traditional Delta blues that is well suited for a front porch, to hard-hitting blues rock. Black River Delta is a band from Sweden that falls into the latter category. 

The band’s album Vol. II caught the attention of blues star Joe Bonamassa, who invited the band on his blues cruise. The band’s new album Shakin was recorded in Malmo, Sweden, and Los Angeles, but there is plenty of the spirit of both the Mississippi Delta and Chicago running through these songs. When you hear these explosive songs, it’s no mystery why the band has garnered attention throughout the blues world.

You may not think of blues as fist-pumping music, but the opening track “Burning and Burning” may get you to change your mind. Right from the beginning, the beat and the slide guitar are enough to get you pumping your fist or stomping your feet. Also, the band turns up the volume considerably louder than most blues songs. The effect is something like when Clutch plays a blues tune.

There is a definite feel of The Black Keys in some of these songs. “Shakin” is one of them, and it brings The Black Keys to mind in the guitar tone, the pounding rhythm, and the fact that the sound seems to come from everywhere. The same can be said for “California Sun”. If the rhythm of this song doesn’t get you moving, you might want to check for a pulse. 

“Black Gold” is a song where the band brings the tempo down. The melody of this one has some similarities to early ZZ Top. The beat is deliberate and the notes on the slide guitar are sustained.  As the song continues, the tempo remains the same, but the volume increases. Oh, and you might want to have your air guitar ready for the guitar solo in this one.  

“Midnight Train” has more of a traditional blues sound. Granted, it still has a rock component with the beat and the distorted guitar, but the volume is turned down compared to other songs. Part of that traditional blues sound is the fact that it features some good harmonica.

Shakin by Black River Delta is further evidence of the continuing evolution of the blues. This isn’t blues for the front porch. This is a blues album to blare from your car as you tear down some highway. It is a blues album that not only begs to be played loudly, but also to be played in huge venues filled with people who embrace the sound and sing along. 

Photo credit: Daniel Hansson

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