Friday, September 11, 2015

Delta Deep at Players

Phil Collen
Phil Collen taught himself to play guitar as a teen-ager in his native London, England. In the midst of a promising career in Girl, he was invited in 1982 to join Def Leppard. After sales of 100 million records and 30 years of arena tours with the hard rock superstars, Collen has returned to playing in small clubs with a new side project called Delta Deep. Collen met rhythm & blues vocalist Debbi Blackwell-Cook (Michael Buble, Luther Vandross) in 2010; she is his wife's godmother. Blackwell-Cook sang at their wedding and frequently visited the couple. Collen and Blackwell-Cook began singing Motown and classic blues songs around the house, and before long the duo began performing before audiences in Orange County, California, where Collen presently resides. They recruited rock bassist Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots) and jazz drummer Forrest Robinson (Crusaders, Jo Sample, India.Arie), and the blues band Delta Deep was born in 2012. Delta Deep's self titled debut album was released on June 23, 2015.

Robert DeLeo is touring presently with Stone Temple Pilots, so he was unable to participate in Delta Deep's premier New York appearance tonight at Players. Delta Deep debuted as a stripped-down trio, playing music loaded with blues and soul roots. Powerhouse singer Debbi Blackwell-Cook belted blues and rhythm and blues songs, accompanied only by Phil Collen ripping on acoustic or electric guitar and Forrest Robinson slapping on hand percussion. The band performed all 11 songs from its debut album, plus a few more, including a simple reworking of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine." Perhaps because the music was so bare, Collen's passion for re-awakening a vintage sound was all the more prominent. The sheer nakedness of the music likewise highlighted Collen's impressive old-fashioned blues picking, which is not as fundamental in Def Leppard. Collen and Blackwell-Cook were personable and chatty as they shared the joy they derived from preserving the blues and  soul music in their rawest forms. While this very basic groove is unlikely to reach Def Leppard's massive appeal, Delta Deep's intimate performance tonight was a mission well executed.

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