No longer young, still gifted and back.
Just over a year ago, The Delevantes were featured in what was, then, our “Forgotten Artists” series (now called “Whatever Happened To…”). At the time it was noted that they were performing together again and there were tantalising rumours that there would, finally, be a third Delevantes album. Those are rumours no longer and The Delevantes are properly back as both a performing and recording unit and they have been much missed. The video for their new single ‘Little by Little’, the second cut on the new album, was recently featured in AUK’s videos section and it’s a perfect example of that Delevantes sound, with its jangling guitars and those “Everlys for the modern age” vocals.
The new album is called “A Thousand Turns” and rest assured it is everything you could wish for from a Delevantes’ album and their time away from the spotlight seems to have served them well, allowing them to come up with an album’s worth of great songs.
The album gets off to a fine start with the opening track, ‘All In All’. It’s a big statement that pretty much picks up where their last album left off over a couple of decades ago, another great love song from a duo that were recognised early on for the ability to deliver a good lyric, often set in everyday life, and often around their native New Jersey, it’s good to see that ability hasn’t deserted them – “The boardwalk clatters and shakes/ the band rocks and rolls ‘til late/ there’s no place I’d rather be/ dancing, dancing you and me”. It’s a terrific intro to the album because it’ll be such a familiar sound to those that know the band and it’s an immediately catchy track for those yet to discover them. It really is as if they’ve never been away and we’ve just had to wait a little longer for that sometimes difficult third album. There’s not a bad cut on this album and they still sound as fresh as ever.
Bob Delevante has obviously used some of the intervening time since the last album to hone his harmonica skills and they’re used to good effect on several tracks on the album, most notably ‘Short Bed Blues’; with its driving guitars and later honky-tonk piano, it’s a surprisingly roadhouse sounding song from the brothers, but one of the very noticeable things about this album is the way it mixes up the tempo of the songs on the tracklisting. It doesn’t let you settle and it’s clear that quite a bit of thought has gone into the ordering of these tracks; just when you think it is settling down it takes a left turn and freshens things up again. It’s a very well-planned album.
While the songwriting from the duo has always been well received it has tended to be based around day-to-day events and simple emotions, steering away from heavier subjects, particularly politics. All that would appear to have changed and one of the stand out tracks on this new album is ‘The Junkman’, a track still composed of the trademark blue-collar imagery we tend to associate with The Delevantes but this time with a sharp, political edge and you’re left in little doubt of their views on one prominent American politician, “The Junkman’s a liar, a con man, a fraudster, a cheat/ He’ll steal the car right out from under you as you drive down the street/ You know it was running just fine/ But he and his boys had something else in mind/ In the blue of the blowtorch glow/ Blowtorch glow/ The junkman’s running the show.” It’s a track that points to the fact that the brothers are no longer the fresh-faced young things of their early albums; they’re older and more worldly-wise and that’s apparent in the new maturity in these songs. As before, Bob Delevante is the main writer but there are three very good co-writes with brother Mike, particularly the yearning ‘Deeper Shade of Blue’ and another strong co-write with Kim Richey, ‘Every Sunset’. Garry Tallent returns to lend his talents as bass player and co-producer, with the brothers and Dave Coleman, who also provides some excellent guitar, pedal steel, and keyboard work. Musically it’s a very strong unit, with the brothers’ own instrumental talents being well supported by the additional musicians, who also include Bryan Owings (drums), Jody Nardone (piano & keyboards), and John Painter (sax & trumpet).
We’ve had some great albums from a variety of artists, both old and new, this year. It seems that the pandemic has helped to concentrate creative minds and given them time to hone their work and their skills and, perhaps, this album is another example of that. Whatever the reasons, while you may hear some other albums from this year that are as good as this, you’ll hear none better, and “A Thousand Turns” has to be a strong contender for album of the year.
When The Delevantes first appeared back in the ’90s they were an exciting duo that were just a little ahead of their time. Hopefully, with the wider acceptance of Americana and roots-based music, the world has caught up with The Delevantes’ vision and they’re now in the right place at the right time for their talents to be widely appreciated. It would be a great shame to lose them again.
In closing; this might not be a perfect album – but it is very close and there should always be that sliver of room for improvement. Hopefully, The Delevantes are now back to stay and we can look forward to their next album without having to wait another twenty-four years!
>>> Please help to support the running costs of Americana UK, run by a dedicated team in our spare time, by donating £2 a month to us - we'll send you an exclusive 20 track curated playlist every month plus the opportunity to win our monthly giveaway. Click here for more information.