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Album Review: Delta Kings’ 4 Chords & the Truth

The Delta Kings are Cody Sokolski (vocals, rhythm guitar), Matt Stewart (lead guitar), Bill Humphrey (bass) and Terry Hawkins (drums), formed in 1993. 4 Chords & the Truth, recorded with uber-producer Mark Rubel, marks their fifth studio album, and the music is just as honed and in the pocket as you’d expect from a veteran group. Now, bear in mind that 4 Chords doesn’t set out to make any grand statements or to change the world. It’s the sound of a few friends getting together for a jam, and a good one at that.

The album opener, “She’s Gotta Have a Crazy Problem” packs a decent wallop, but I was a little worried that the whole album would stick to the jump-blues template it presents. Fortunately, the tracks immediately following it branch out significantly into garage and pop territory. “Do You Got Love” sounds like it could have come off of an Animals record (whom the band had down perfectly at the Cover Up, by the way), Stewart lays down some absolutely awesome slide work on “Hats” and an errant riff straight out of the Big Star playbook even creeps into the end of “I’m a Survivor”. The band’s mix of blues and Elvis Costello-style garage rock is a little unorthodox, but it works to great effect and on the whole, 4 Chords and the Truth does an excellent job avoiding the monotony and repetition that can be so easy for a blues band to fall into. While it doesn’t fare quite as well lyrically — there’s an entire song devoted to the many uses of hats — 4 Chords doesn’t set you up for lyrical meditations on life and death. In fact, it sets you up for lyrical meditations on things like hats, which makes it pretty satisfying to actually hear one.

If I were forced to level a criticism at 4 Chords & the Truth, it would be the album’s length. Maybe the blues just isn’t my thing (or I was in too good of a mood), but had the band shaved twenty minutes off of the album’s nearly hour-long running time, it would have pushed the album up a few more notches in my book. But, this is such a minor issue as to be nearly negligible. Overall, 4 Chords & the Truth achieves exactly what it set out to do. It’s a fun, poppy album and certainly worth a listen.

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