Band: Delta Smoke
Date: Friday, Nov. 24, 6 p.m.
Venue: Manci’s Antique Club, 1715 Main St. (Daphne), www.mancisantiqueclub.com
Over the past three years, Delta Smoke has spread its homegrown acoustic goodness across the Mobile Bay area. Crowds have been mesmerized by Jake Burford (guitar/vocals) and Kyle Johnson’s (harmonica/vocals) musical chemistry through their setlist of covers.
The public will soon see another facet of this duo’s talent, as Delta Smoke releases its first original album early next year. Burford and Johnson accomplished this with the help of a number of notable local musicians.
A debut release of original material seems like the next step in a legacy that began on the causeway.
Three years ago, Burford focused on solo performances. The guitarist was playing what seemed like a typical gig at Café Del Rio when he decided to add a little variety to his set with a guest appearance by Johnson on harmonica. When Johnson took the stage, Burford said it ignited a spontaneous musical chemistry that begged for exploration.
“He came up there and played a few songs and was like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna get off the stage, if you’re ready,’” Burford said. “I said, ‘Naw, I want for you to stay for this whole show.’ We ended up playing the whole show together and had a great night. We ended up making some awesome music.”
Even though he continued with solo performances, Burford began to explore the possibility of a duo project involving Johnson. Burford was taken not only with Johnson’s skills on the harmonica, but also with their combined vocal work. This was Burford’s first experience with vocal harmonies, and for him, this aspect of their combined efforts was artistically refreshing.
“The way we clicked, with our voices being so similar, everything flowed together real nice, not to mention that he’s a hell of a harp player,” Burford said. “We just had this instant chemistry.”
This chemistry pressed the duo to move past their set of covers. Burford said that a breakup inspired him to sit down and pen the band’s first original, “Heartache Is a Hell of a Drug,” which will be included on their debut.
When he approached Johnson with his concept, Burford said things started flowing. “Heartache Is a Hell of a Drug” established a trademark sound for Delta Smoke. This song begins with Burford’s acoustic guitar cradling his and Johnson’s down-home country harmonies in an embrace of soulful blues. Afterward, the track drops into a smooth, sultry groove accented by the duo’s impeccable vocal work and Johnson’s skillful slides across the harmonica.
Right after this song was written, Burford says that the two decided to include it at their next show. The positive response from their audience pushed Delta Smoke forward. Burford says this form of artistic expression was addictive, especially given the ease with which they wrote songs.
“We like to get into a relaxed atmosphere and get a good rhythm on the guitar and come up with a good melody,” Burford said. “Whenever we write a song, we try to go from personal experience and stuff we can relate to that other people can relate to and let it all flow together.”
When the two decided it was time for an album, Burford says they looked to one of their favorite local acts, The Mulligan Brothers. Both Burford and Johnson love the musical qualities The Mulligan Brothers display on their studio tracks. With this in mind, they approached Mulligan Brothers drummer Greg DeLuca for his assistance in laying down tracks. Burford says he and Johnson felt DeLuca could help them maintain their musical persona as an acoustic duo on a studio release.
“They [The Mulligan Brothers] put out that vibe that we’re looking for,” Burford said. “Greg is talented on so many different levels. I met him one night at Brickyard, and he was playing with Josh Ewing. I met him before we were supposed to get together for lunch to talk about the album. He was just a super nice guy. As soon as I met him, it was a no-brainer.”
When they entered the studio, Delta Smoke decided they would explore their established sound with a few additional players. For this task, Burford and Johnson looked no farther than Mobile. DeLuca added his drums and bass to several songs. Mulligan Brothers bassist Ben Leininger also contributed bass tracks. The Red Field’s guitarist Caleb Murph was also tapped to add lead guitar.
For Delta Smoke, the addition of players to their original tracks was a new aspect they may explore further in the future. However, the two are quick to admit they do not want to lose the organic acoustic vibe that gave birth to Delta Smoke.
“We at least want to hire a drummer and bass player to start off to keep the momentum going at the shows,” Burford said. “We would be able to break back and do acoustic stuff as well, but we would like to have a rhythm section behind us and maybe hire a keys player. That will be later on down the road. Delta Smoke will always be Kyle and Jake.”
Lagniappe was able to obtain a rough mix of “Heartache Is a Hell of a Drug.” While the rest of the album is still being mixed, Burford did provide Lagniappe readers with a preview of other tracks from the album.
The album’s title track, “Love & Company,” is a song about meeting a woman who is “going to be trouble and turn your world upside down.” “Road Less Traveled” is dedicated to Johnson’s wife. Burford says “Ramblin’ Feeling” has a nice chop and a good bounce.
Overall, Delta Smoke cannot wait to receive more feedback on its original material. Until the album’s release at the beginning of 2018, the duo encourages the public to sample their original tunes performed live.
Delta Smoke prides itself on bringing audiences into another world, both emotionally and mentally. The warm, intimate atmosphere of Manci’s should provide a prime environment to experience these songs in a live setting.
(Photo | Provided) Jake Burford and Kyle Johnson first played together as Delta Smoke three years ago. They are preparing to release their debut album early next year.