Sun King Rising – Delta Tales
Written by Kevin Tanza on February 24, 2022
If I told you that you are listening to a Soul artist that has a degree in biomedical science, you would probably think that I’m insane, but this is exactly who John Blangero is and that is exactly what his group, Sun King Rising, is all about. And their first album, 2020’s Delta Tales, is widely regarded as one of the records that have helped in the rebirth of classic Southern Rock and Soul.
There is much to like about this album and you can hear that swagger, that charm, that sexy feeling, with the first song, The Snake. It was a really good choice for the first single and you have very charming vocal melodies, a nice little groove that sticks in your mind from the second that you start listening to the song and the horn section is quite good, filling in the spaces of the track. It is a very melodic and catchy single, so it is a very good introduction to the record.
Milkweed And Thistle is a lot more Rock than Soul, but it is still quite good. The guitar plays a much more commanding role and I think that gives the song a much more epic feel. It definitely has a bit of that 70s Southern Rock vibe and it is much appreciated. One thing that I really like about Sun King Rising is the fact that the songs flow with ease; they don’t feel forced or over the top, but rather that they are trying to write compositions that feel as one collective musical unit. That’s quality songwriting right there.
But if we are talking about Southern Rock, then Down the Delta Road is the biggest example of that approach. It is a bit of a ballad, with the vocals having a very important role and carrying the weight of the composition. It reminds me a bit to early 90s Bon Jovi, but I guess this is just me because this is a bit more Southern Rock and Country than anything else. I think it has some nice touches, but it failts to really explode, at least from my perspective.
On the other hand, I was really fond of In A State of Grace. I feel that the approaches of the previous songs get all mixed up and it makes for a very compelling listen. I enjoy the vocals as they are quite warm and heartfelt; there is a very organic feeling throughout the album that is quite enjoyable.
There is a slow build up to Take It Down and I think it works quite well because it allows to set the mood and give the band time to deliver the goods. The chorus is particularly impressive, with a lot of powerful and high quality vocal harmonies. On the other hand, there are a lot of interesting grooves and rhythm changes in Beneath the Southern Sun, quickly becoming one of the finest of the album; there is a nice combination of guitar work, groove and vocal harmonies that make the whole experience a lot more interesting than other songs on the album (not to be too critical about the others, of course).
Evangeline in the Morning has some interesting piano bus, but it never fully takes off, if you ask me. I know that is a ballad and I know that is more about the feeling than the rhythm, but I personally think that there is something missing in this song and never hits you the way a great ballad should hit you. Now, I know this band is capable of reaching those heights and they have done it in this record, but I think this song never goes that far.
However, I do love Love Turns Grey. It’s catchy, it’s soulful, it’s fun and it has a certain joy to it that makes the whole experience very positive. A lot of people struggle nowadays to make positive-sounding music and I think this group excels at that, which I guess is due to the fact that they have a wide of musical influences, giving them a lot more alternatives and ideas to choose from.
I very much enjoy the instrumental side of Drive Me to Nashville. It’s definitely more classic Country than Rock or Soul, but it has its own charm and there is a very minimalistic feel to the song that I like a lot. And Let There Be Light is a great example of this band delivering the goods when it comes to ballads; it is a strong and almost epic ending to what has been a really enjoyable album.
Overall, Delta Tales is a very interesting album to analyze in the sense that it has a lot of variety, a lot of mixed influences and it makes up for a very fun listen because the band makes these changes here and there that provide that always necessary variety.
If you want a bit of Southern, Country and Soul with your Rock, then Sun King Rising is the band for you and Delta Tales definitely a very good album to listen to.