Delta Rae Rings Out At Bele Chere Music Fest

By Zan Parker on July 31, 2012


Asheville, NC’s 34th annual Bele Chere festival, a free street fiesta that brings artists to the public, swarmed downtown on Saturday. Life-sized alien dolls bobbed along in a crowd of preachers, protesters, kilt wearers, patchouli scented backpackers, and even a group of male joggers in flowing blue dresses. As the southern center for free spirits, Asheville is the perfect venue for creative exchange.

After sampling local fare (Corner Kitchen has a Reuben to die for), browsing the explosion of shops and street vendors, and pausing in an alleyway to enjoy an Irish folk ensemble, a peek down Biltmore Avenue revealed yet another stage. The band on deck, though still in sound check, exuded intensity. A catlike blonde stood at the mike with her slim arm extended skyward. My companions exchanged glances. Who are these guys?

Six performers readied themselves at the mikes. A first blast of song rushed out with big, rich, multi-part harmonies and swept down the packed avenue in a hurricane of sound, the rhythmic minors splitting open into a sunrise of major chords. Band members buckled and stomped under their relentless, homespun percussion (chains, hand claps, vocalizations). It was a southern gospel-rock war cry.

This is Delta Rae. Composed of three siblings, a friend, and two later recruits, the Durham, NC based band just signed with Warner Bros. Records last summer, and have released their first album, Carry the Fire. Read their bio here:

Elizabeth Hopkins, the aforementioned blonde, has a voice like ghosts talking to each other. It worked well for the haunting song, “Bottom of the River,” which stood out as the gem of the set. Band member Ian Holljes reported that the melody had first come to him in a dream, and he
woke up with the tune in his head.

After the first song’s shock of admiration leveled out, however, the group’s flaws began
to show. Often words were hard to understand, drowned out by the music’s melodrama. A
listen to recorded versions of the same songs revealed lyrics that are satisfactory, but stock
for the southern-rock genre, with themes and imagery of love, the south, rivers, boots, etc.
Several songs cease introducing new material early and repeat a single phrase over and over or
wordlessly vocalize . Such is the case with “Holding on to Good.”

Still, those mouth-watering harmonies alone were a satisfactory reward for an audience, and
Asheville’s crowd responded with enthusiasm. Paired with more vibrant writing, the result could
be magnificent.



Uloop Writer
I love God, theatre, nature, and language.

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