Open Mic Session with The Glendale Family
with special guest appearance
“Sometimes you don’t fit a niche. There’s pressure on you to fit in and do the popular thing. I know I don’t fit the mould but just take a chance and it might work.”
Delta Maid is talking about her song ‘Back the Last Horse’, but she could just as easily be discussing her own impending launch into the music industry.
Packing a hipflask full of Mersey moonshine and soul-studded country blues, this Liverpudlian singer songwriter will take your breath away with her expectation-confounding debut album ‘Outside Looking In’.
From Wavertree in South Liverpool, 25 year old Delta’s love affair with American roots music began when she was a child, her head swimming with country greats as well as the more modern blues that made up the backbone of her parents record collection – from Taj Mahal and Stevie Ray Vaughan and BB King. Delta’s own personal musical discovery was kick-started by a copy of country blues queen Rory Block’s ‘Best Blues and Originals’ which her parents bought back with them after a trip to New York.
Listening to the record non-stop for two weeks during a holiday in Ireland, the 13 year old Delta’s ears were opened to early blues and there was no turning back. “I was in awe. I became fascinated by the style of play, the whole feeling of it. It was at this point that I began actively searching for the history and legends that were behind Delta blues. After hearing the likes of Son House, Skip James, Bessie Smith and Robert Johnson for the first time I dived head first into a world that has since become a part of my own makeup.”
Recorded at Parr Street Studios in her hometown of Liverpool and co-produced by Delta and Chris Taylor with her brother on lead guitar, ‘Outside Looking In’ is so called because of the record’s reflective qualities. It’s true that listening to this intimate record is like having a fireside chat with this incredibly warm performer. It’s also the name of a stand out song on the album, which fuses rockabilly with one of Delta’s biggest inspirations, the sublime and soulful Patsy Cline. “The melody came after watching The Stray Cats in concert on TV a while back. I’ve always loved the sound of the 50s – namely Gretsch guitars – and Brian Setzer inspired me that day. It was definitely destined to be a heartache song.”
Running the gamut of human emotion, the poignant, ‘Running On Empty’ is worthy of Bonnie Raitt, while the tender ‘Footprints’ is inspired by a time working in the nursing home. Yet such downbeat moments are balanced with equally as accomplished highs, such as the country gospel bounce of ‘All I Dreamed’ and the up-tempo ‘Of My Own’, which positively zings. A perky, assertive ode to standing up to a friend or a lover who just keeps on bringing you down, this country-fried hipshaker is the first official single to be taken from ‘Outside Looking In’.
The plaintive, softly lit Carter Family croon in ‘The Changes Made’, was written the day after she saw Elvis Costello play at the Picket in Liverpool. “It was written really early on when I was first writing songs and it must have subconsciously been inspired by a lot of the folk music I’ve listened to. Lyrically it was written as an act of self-encouragement to remind me that a lot of pain I went through at the time wasn’t in vain and in fact was ultimately instrumental in helping me change for the better. “
‘Broken Branches’ – the tale of an unravelling relationship – was penned late at night and in bed. “The whole song developed from the opening two lines when I was thinking about a relationship I had been in and realised, almost in a eureka moment I had been really hard done by.”
Meanwhile, ‘Dance With My Broken Heart’ is influenced by the sweet sounds of heartbreak country and rings the same bells as its originator, Hank Williams, once did. “His songwriting is really simple – it’s not convoluted but it’s so effective,” effuses Delta. ‘Any Way I Want To’ references the 1930s too, but instead picks up on blues and ragtime from the era. The song is about an old colleague though, rather than a lover. “People think it’s a relationship song, but it’s not. She was an emotional manipulator and very able at making me feel terrible inside. It’s kind of a rebel song – I couldn’t put up with it anymore! It was almost like therapy for me to write that song.”
A left hander, Delta has developed her own distinct way of playing the guitar, by trying to replicate what she’d heard on Son House and Leadbelly records. “People say it’s a weird finger picking style that not many people do, but it’s just an amalgamation of what I’ve picked up on – it’s dead natural to me.” The “Celtic sounding” ‘When Love Grows Cold’ – a personal favourite of Delta’s thanks to its emotive lyrical content – is in fact the only track on the album where Delta strums the guitar, rather than picking in her tried and tested style.
A religiously acoustic performer, Delta is making a name for herself in new folk and alt-country circles and has already supported the likes of Ray LaMontagne, Martha Wainwright and Seth Lakeman with her Mersey Delta sound.
Drawing parallels between the down home lyrics of Delta blues and with her own upbringing in Liverpool, Delta’s life isn’t as far removed from the Mississippi-based music that has inspired her as you might think. “There’s something really honest about it,” explains Delta. “It’s not convoluted in any way. I feel that’s what Liverpool’s got in common with Delta blues, because there’s a lot of honesty there – we tend to wear our hearts on our sleeves. A lot of the language, believe it or not, is quite similar.”
With ‘Outside Looking In’ we can certainly believe that, and then some.