by Scott Colvin
Delta Rae cannot be pigeonholed into a specific genre. They are unapologetically country, gospel and pop and have created a sound all of their own without compromise.
What makes Delta Rae special is the vocal diversity among the principle singers (Liz Hopkins and siblings Brittany, Eric and Ian Hölljes) and their impeccable ability to adhere and advance each other’s preferred style, whether it being Hopkins’ spirited country sensibilities, Brittany’s powerful gospel vocals and the singer/song-writer leanings of Ian and Eric.
Regardless of whose song it is, the close-knit Delta Rae “family” (which includes Mike McKee on drums and Grant Emerson on bass), is a singular unit working together to spread their collective love – Music. And they certainly have a good time spreading that love.
Upon hitting the stage at Annapolis’ Rams Head On Stage (one of the finest under 300-seat listening rooms in the country) they dove right into a groove–laden version of their popular single “Long And Happy Life” featuring Hopkins’ dynamic vocals and the band’s trademarked four-part harmonies; perfectly setting the tone for a night of joyous music.
Throughout the night each singer took their turn to invigorate the sold-out audience. Brittany took the crowd to church with gospel-infused songs such as “Seven Bridges Road,” and “No Dry Eye in the Chapel” (the latter featured fantastic stage interactions between her and Hopkins). On the empowering new song, “Hands Dirty” Brittany channeled her inner Beyonce on a soulful piano-driven tune. The night’s most powerful and poignant moment came when she introduced “All Good People,” inspired by the Charleston, SC church shootings. Before playing the haunting song with a thundering bass drum (played by Emerson) Brittany proclaimed “Raise your voices…it’s not about politics…it’s about right and wrong.” Later in the set Brittany played what she called the “southern gothic folk tale” “Bottom of the River” which employed well-placed call and response vocals, ominous bass drums and theatrical lighting.
Besides the ebullient “Long and Happy Life” Hopkins delivered the goods on the effervescent “I Moved South,” the intense “Chasing Twisters” which found her voice soaring, the high energy “Ain’t Love,” which she explained is about how love is awesome, but pretty scary, and a tremendous version of Chris Stapleton’s “Broken Halos.” The entire vocal contingent surrounded Hopkins on the stunning “No Peace in Quiet” written by Eric who explained that the crushing post break-up song was too hard for him to sing, “So he asked his good friend Liz to sing it” and Liz replied “And I said yes.” You can hear the story behind the song on the music video here.
Before playing their first break-out song “If I Loved You” Brittany asked, “Hey Liz, can you sing us an upbeat breakup song?” And sing it she did. It’s still one of the finest bittersweet, yet, glorious songs.
Not to be outdone, the Hölljes brothers Ian and Eric had their moments in the sun with a new song by Ian, “Only in America,” a spirited and catchy mid-tempo song. Eric’s song of California wanderlust despite knowing North Carolina is home “The Wrong Ocean,” and “Morning Comes” reigned as celebrations of hope. Ian closed out the night and had the appreciative crowd on their feet (typically a no-no at this particular venue, but the rules at Rams Head go often go out the door as the night progresses) with the invigorating “Dance in the Graveyard” which turned into an 80s party as Hopkins danced with crowd members singing Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
In the end, Delta Rae are a celebration of hope, joy and love with brilliant lead vocals, harmonies and music that warms and invigorates the soul. Even the most cynical person cannot deny their music and message. If you never have a chance to see them perform do so and be healed.
(Not Scott's video, but from the show he attended)