Every area in which the blues has taken root has a different sound. Chicago blues is different from Memphis blues and St. Louis blues sounds different than Texas blues. West Coast Blues is distinct from all the others with its jump rhythms and different instrumentation. Once you hear it, you know it, and you pretty much know what to expect.
San Francisco is its own world, even within the West Coast sound. The band Delta Wires has been one of its best practitioners for the past three decades and have just released their latest disc, Born In Oakland on Mud Slide Records.
The band is an over the top seven-piece band that relies heavily on harmonica and horns. The harmonica is supplied by founding member and band leader Ernie Pinata, who also handles the lead vocals. The horns are Gerry Jonutz on temor, alto, and baritone sax, David Bowman on trombone, and John Christensen on trumpet.
The rest of the band is Tom Gerrits on bass and vocals, Richard Healey on guitar, and Tony Huszar on drums, congas, and tambourine.
Most of the ten songs on Born In Oakland are originals, with the band performing covers of Billy “The Kid” Emerson’s Little Fine Healthy Thing, here titled Fine And Healthy Thing, and I Don’t Care by Pete Shaw. I’ve found a listing for the song by The Spyders, but I must confess that I am not that familiar with the song.
The horns open the door for some funky guitar and bass on the first song, Sunny Day. Pinata has a good voice, here more mellow than edgy but that works perfectly for this kind of song. It’s got plenty of swing and promises that this will be a very cool album.
Billy “The Kid” Emerson is probably best known for his song, Red Hot, which was a big hit for Billy Lee Riley. Another of Emerson’s songs, Fine And Healthy Thing, is next, and that big band swing sounds exciting. Pinata croons his way through the song with just a little touch of attitude to really sell the number.
The band gets to rocking on the next track, Vacation. They turn the guitar loose and the horns step in when they need to in order to provide just the right emphasis. Pinata has a lot of fun just being the cool California rocker and you just can’t help but get into the song.
Your Eyes starts off with some nice guitar work from Healy and the song has that very laid back California cool sound. They lyrics are very nice and the trumpet break adds a nice touch. It may not be the song that blues purists love, but I really like it a lot.
The follow up song, Days Of The Week, picks up the pace and adds a little more bounce to the proceedings. The horn section packs a punch on this number. Pinata really does a great job on the harp break, playing off of Healy’s guitar. Solid playing all around.
Next up is my favorite song on the album, Devil’s In My Headset. There’s some smoking guitar and good lyrics. It made me look twice at my own headset as they are on my head every evening listening and evaluating blues albums. The horns and guitar take on a jazzy break and change the tone of the song, and it’s sweet. Very sweet.
Next up is my favorite time of the day, Fun Time. It’s a bouncy number with a little bit of jump added to make it a fun song. Pinata swings as he sings, and I would love to see the guys do this one live, I bet they rock the crowd.
Now comes the mysterious I Don’t Care. It’s credited on the album to “Byrd” but thanks to a couple of emails from the band, I have found that there was a mix up and the song was actually written by Pete Shaw. I can’t find a recording of it, but I found the flip side of the 45 on YouTube and listened to a pretty funky number. This one is also pretty funky with some great percussion and horns that attack. It’s a big time dance number and Pinata rocks his vocals. It may have been obscure, but it’s a lot of fun!
More funk follows with In The Middle. The band trades licks in a very cool jam – the horns take the lead while the rhythm section lays down the beat. It’s a solid instrumental that gives Pinata a chance to rest his voice and pick up his harp for some serious wailing. This is a very cool song that shows the band at their musical best.
The album closes with All I Have To Give. It seems to me that the band has given us all that they have on this album. It’s a bluesy love song with that distinctive West Coast flavor. It’s a good way to conclude the album.
Delta Wires is a very cool band that I wish I had discovered earlier. I haven’t been out the West Coast in many years and so they haven’t been on my radar. You better believe they are on it now and I plan on getting a few more of their previous albums so I can build a few segments for Time For The Blues to feature them.
If you aren’t familiar with them, Born In Oakland is a great place to start. You can pick up the album – and others – at their website, https://deltawires.com/, and check out their touring schedule. I see they will be primarily on the West Coast, no surprise there, but they are also heading over to Italy for a big appearance.
If you catch the live any place, please send us a report here and let us know how they did. In the meantime, be sure to check out Born In Oakland asap!