Delta Rae, a six-member ensemble from Durham, North Carolina, has built their reputation around bewitching harmonies and vivid songwriting. The group has released two full-length albums, and boasts features on HBO’s True Blood, NPR, and Forbes, as well as a history of commanding live performances. After signing with Big Machine Label Group’s Valory imprint and planting new roots in Nashville, Delta Rae has found a new home in the country music community with the release of their new EP, A Long And Happy Life.
The four-track set, produced by Dann Huff (Keith Urban, Brantley Gilbert, Maddie & Tae), begins with its title track, which also serves as the group’s first single released to country radio. The group’s moniker comes from a character in a story written by the Hölljes siblings’ mother, so it is fitting that “A Long And Happy Life” also has literary ties, referencing the titles of four books that have special meanings to the band members. The joyful track has its own story to tell about finding love and making memories for seasons to come.
Following the title track is “I Moved South,” perhaps the most autobiographical song on the EP. Lead vocalists Liz Hopkins and Brittany Hölljes trade lines and tell the story of how Brittany, along with her brothers Eric and Ian, moved from California to North Carolina, where they teamed up with Hopkins, as well as bassist Grant Emerson and drummer Mike McKee. Weaving a mix of Southern folk, rock, bluegrass, gospel, and soul music into lyrics written by Eric and Ian, the sextet emerged as Delta Rae, turning a fixer-upper into a studio and “a van that smelled like Armor All” into a tour bus. “I Moved South” showcases the band’s talents well, with tight guitar and drum fills and plenty of room for the vocalists’ harmonies to shine, particularly during a “soul”-ful two-bar break in the second verse.
The back half of the EP takes a more somber turn, with “No Peace In Quiet” portraying the discomforting silence accompanying a recent breakup. Hopkins sings atop a tender string section of how music wards off the haunting echoes of former footsteps and conversations with a lost love in her memories: “Ghosts don’t stand a chance against the radio / That’s why I turn the music up to sleep.” Closing track “Ain’t Love” captures the period in which a relationship starts to hit the rocks but shows the potential to grow stronger for it. Hopkins sings of making up after a rough night by the second verse, before the track bursts at its bridge: “You make me feel like gold, white heat, black velvet / You got the touch to heal me, but it ain’t enough.”
Longtime fans of Delta Rae may have been surprised at the band’s more overt turn toward the country genre, while new listeners could have been surprised by their earlier material, which leans closer to folk and Americana than traditional country production. However, both groups of listeners will find there’s plenty to enjoy about the EP, with the group’s penchant for rich harmonies and poignant storytelling still very much in tact and a sound that still draws from several genres, but fits in with the contemporary sound of today’s Music Row.
Following a performance in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, next month at the Tortuga Music Festival, Delta Rae will embark on a 50-date headline summer tour beginning in May.