"Soul is the glue which binds everything together," says Gregg Foreman, singer/guitarist of the Delta 72. "You don't have to sound like Otis Redding to have the feeling."
It's a simple philosophy. Brushing off charges of blackface posturing, Foreman and his impermanent bandmates power through nostalgic R&B workouts, striving to recapture the gritty edge of treasured Stax/Volt classics. However, with its third album 000, the Philly foursome stretches from lean, riff-based instrumentals to full-out, bluesy rock 'n' roll.
"We were trying to let the sound progress naturally, and work more on the things which are important to us," Foreman says. "We have a new keyboard player, and I think we were focusing on songwriting rather than funky grooves. It's a different thing. We were experimenting with new ideas, like the background singers and different effects."
The latest disc's departures include an explosive nod to Spiritualized ("Are You Ready?"), a celebratory rave-up ("I Feel Fine"), a laidback Latin piece ("Sun the Secret Prince"), and a few Exile on Main Street-style anthems ("Great Paper Chase No. 1," "Just Another Let Down"). Propulsive rhythms and howling licks of vintage organ remain the core of the band's attack, while Foreman's stinging slide-guitar in "Hip Coat" shows off his own impressive chops.
Burdensome comparisons with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the Make-Up, and other R&B deconstructionists seem a likely cause for the band's expanded sound, but Foreman wearily shakes his head. A voracious collector of '60s and '70s singles, he ignores most contemporary acts, instead digging deeper and deeper into history.
"As you progress musically, you get influenced by new things," he says. "We've always been influenced by soul, but different elements also make their way in. Comparisons don't have anything to do with it, because people will always compare you to something. We just agreed that it was all right to rock, you know?"
Having recently added a second guitarist, the Delta 72 is eager to take its splashy revue on the road. Meanwhile, Foreman happily plots the group's evolving identity.
"We've been writing a lot of new stuff, and it's super rockin' and funky. I have a lot of hope for what we'll do in the future. Our tastes are so weird, though. One song we're playing live, which isn't even on the record, sounds like it could be written by the Time or Prince & the Revolution. And the newest song we wrote sounds like an Allman Brothers B-side. We're all over the place. But somewhere between soul and rock 'n' roll, that's where we're at."
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