When you hear the music of Delta Rae, don't be surprised if the sound seems familiar but absolutely fresh, too.
The dichotomy is no accident. Delta Rae's sound has deep roots in soul, Americana and blues with a strong dollop of rock, but the six-piece group has worked hard to craft its own original sound.
"We are folk, but we definitely have R&B," said band member Liz Hopkins. "We have always been moved by soulful, moving singing."
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That's arguably undeniable to anyone who even takes a cursory listen. The familiar sounds you hear in Delta Rae's music may put you in mind of Smokey Robinson, Etta James and even Nickel Creek. Yet, the exquisite harmonies seem to echo those from such luminaries as the Supremes flavored with a rock-country mix a la Little Big Town. And the intricate arrangements of strings, keys and occasional horns bring to mind Tori Amos and others that prove elegant music can also be quite accessible. To say the group isn't locked into a format is clearly an understatement, as the "sound like" list could go on. Listen to "Dance in the Graveyards" and you'll hear a rhythm reminiscent of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Suffice to say that it's little wonder Seymour Stein, who signed everyone from the Ramones to Madonna, signed Delta Rae to Sire/Warner Brothers.
What's scary is realizing that Delta Rae formed as something akin to a happy accident. The short story is that siblings Ian and Eric Holljes formed a close musical bound while growing up in Durham, N.C. After they graduated from college, they recruited their "lion-voiced" sister, Brittany Holljes, and longtime friend Hopkins.
"That was the year [some of us] were graduating from college, and we were all at loose ends," said Hopkins. "I was in New York, searching for meaningful working, perhaps working with teens. In the meantime, I was working as a barista and as a receptionist at a hair salon."
When she received the call from the brothers, Hopkins packed and moved to North Carolina. By late 2010, the group had added drummer Mike McKee and bassist Grant Emerson and went on the road. The group's fan base was so strong that a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of its album raised $28,000, $8,000 more than the goal.
Although the group is now signed with a major label that is distributing the fan-funded album "Carry the Fire," Hopkins said its roots are still strong.
She talks about two of her former preschool students attending a concert and giving her flowers.
"Things like that are unbelievable," she said. "Wow. That's what reminds me why we do this."