Delta Rae

Delta Rae – Carry the Fire [Album Stream + Review]

Delta Rae

Click to Stream Delta Rae album, Carry the Fire (via Rolling Stone)

Delta Rae, a six-piece band from North Carolina, is making a splash in 2012 with the release of their album Carry the Fire. The band has been revered in the press for their ability to create a full sound, and better yet, a full presence on stage. They have a firm grip on soul influences, they reflect the likes of Fleetwood Mac with their cast of multiple lead singers, and they have a keen ability to blend gospel, soul, folk, country, acapella and pop music into one unforgettable sound. Delta Rae songs are rooted in emotional experiences that most of us can relate to, but we may not have the creative skill to turn them into the poetic stories that Delta Rae has created for us. Their sound is one I don’t hear often today, and with this release, we are given an album sprinkled with subtle intricacies that prove their mastery of songwriting.

Similar to what we heard in Fun.’s Some Nights earlier this year, Delta Rae capitalizes on the idea of building and breaking a song down as it goes along. Many of the tracks on this album start relatively softly, often in the form of acapella, and they gradually build and build to a point of near explosion, only to hit a bridge that decomposes what they’ve created, leaving us a soft and simplistic glance at the work of art. Seconds later, the explosion occurs and the first few times it happens, it’s incredible. However, Delta Rae might be overusing this technique, as by the middle of the album, it becomes a bit predictable, leaving little room for guessing. That weakness, though, is most times overshadowed by their strength in lyrics, in creating a full story in not just words but also orchestration. This album really highlights Delta Rae’s ability to create songs that are crafted by true artists of our age.

A Song by Song Review:

Holding On To Good (5/5): 

“Holding On To Good” opens the album with a beautiful piano pulsing line, accompanied by beautiful vocals sung by Brittany Holljes. As the song progresses, the sound gets bigger, to the point where we hit harmonization around the 2-minute mark that creates a new and irresistible layer of sound. “In the morning, sometimes I think about the way you held me.”  We’re told the story of loving a new person, but waking up to remember the way your old love held you. You’re lucky if you’ve never felt that way, but something tells me most of us have. I think this song is the perfect opening for the album—it adds the first color to a canvas, adorning it with piano intricacies, beautiful vocal patterns, and invigorating percussion that brings the song to life.

Is There Anyone Out There (2/5): 

Is there anyone out there? You know me. I am the sun, I’m a lost country of a new world and we’re born to run. Have a look at me. 

The vocal accompaniment and backdrop that draws me in on most Delta Rae songs just isn’t quite there on this song; instead it seems to be a bit of a distracter and perhaps a bit of an annoyance.

Morning Comes (5/5): 

This song starts with an acapella vibe, but the leads into gentle guitar strumming accompanied by Eric Holljes’s beautiful voice. It seems that with the album version, Delta Rae has broken this song down to its bare bones at its start, which adds a whole new layer of attraction. This is my favorite Delta Rae song to date. It’s amazing to see what wonders four simple handclaps can do to a song; Delta Rae took that simple idea and formed a song around it, leaving us with an exhilarating feeling when you get to those points in the song, even if you’re just listening through a pair of headphones. But prepare yourself, for if you happen to be at a live show, you’ll find that the whole room joins the band in those handclaps.

Hit ‘Continue Reading’ to read the full review…

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Delta Rae – Bottom of the River [Official Video]

Delta Rae Bottom of the River Music Video

Delta Rae has just released their official music video for their Southern Gospel song “Bottom of the River.” While it’s likely clear at this point that I’m a true fan of Delta Rae’s movement, it’s hard for me to imagine anybody watching this video and not catching on to the talent that’s in front of us. I’ve been hearing about this video as it’s been in the works, and boy has it been in the process for some time! It tooks over 8 months to make, over 50 people on the cast/crew, and it’s finally here. And it looks fantastic. I particularly love the added percussion beats, which aren’t included in the live acoustic version. Wonderful job by Delta Rae and company.

MP3: “Bottom of the River” – Delta Rae

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Delta Rae – Memphis [Live Video]

Delta Rae

I spent most of my evening last night at Motorco Music Hall in downtown Durham watching Delta Rae perform. I’ve seen the band live a handful of times now, and though they’ve consistently been on tour so their set list isn’t much different between appearances, they still amaze me each time I see them. Something about the pure elegance of their voices and the incredible use of harmonization, chord changes, memorable choruses and their Southern soul aspect pulls me in closer and closer with every listen. One of my favorite songs of theirs is called Memphis. Check out the video below to get a taste of what it’s like to see Delta Rae perform and hear a live version of “Memphis.”

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Live: Delta Rae (100Bands #71)

Delta Rae

What’s Left: 9 days. 29 bands.

Band #71: Delta Rae

When/Where: August 26, Casbah, Durham, NC

Expectations: The last time I saw Delta Rae live, I had mixed feelings about the band. I thought that they were definitely a very talented bunch, but they were a bit too cheery for me. Their music might have been a little bit too Southern and kind for me, too. Since then, though, I have heard some of their new releases and have been incredibly impressed with the direction they’ve gone in.

Concert: Despite Hurricane Irene’s upcoming trip to the neighborhood, a large crowd made the trek to Casbah to see local band Delta Rae perform. It always impresses me to see the multiple demographic groups that Delta Rae can pull together for a show – the audience ranged from freshmen college students to a flock of post-grads and all the way up to retired folk who chose to spend an evening with their spouses in the presence of some ground-rattling music from Delta Rae.

Delta Rae includes four band members – the front four, Eric Holljes, Ian Holljes, Brittany Holljes, and Liz Hopkins, are all singers, while the back two, Mike McKee and Grant Emerson, provide support on the bass and the drums. They started off the night with an opening song that set the stage for how the rest of the night would continue – all four singers grouped together at the front of the stage and each sang a solo section of the song, as if they were going down the line showing off their incredibly powerful voices and beautiful harmonizing skills.

Throughout the night, Delta Rae played a large collection of songs. It seems to me as if they’ve grown into themselves a bit. Perhaps they once were striving to draw too grandiose of a picture, but if so, they have figured out how to fill those shoes with their wider range of songs, ability to get the crowd clapping, swaying, and dancing, and more energetic movements and actions on stage. One highlight of the night came when they performed their original Gospel song called “Bottom of the River,” during which they proved that despite their majority fair-skinned appearance, they embody the soul, power, and heart of a full choral group with a sound that can  fill an entire church with the echoes of the Gospel. The acapella tune and the beautiful foot stomping and hand clapping made it feel as though Casbah itself had been transformed into a house of worship.

The band played a new song called “Surrounded,” which is repurposed from brothers Ian and Eric’s old band, Running Lights, and is a personal favorite of mine. They also played “Morning Comes,” “If I Loved You,” “Country House,” “Right Before My Eyes,” “Memphis,” “Holding on to Good,” “Rain Down On Me,” “Darling If,” among others. They created a very personal atmosphere by introducing the majority of their songs with the story behind the song or what inspired the lyrics.

I noticed this evening that Delta Rae has found a perfect algorithm to songwriting. Between gripping lyrics to grand choruses, acoustic bridges, solo vocal sections, intricate piano overtones, heavy electric guitar sections, harmonies, foot stomps, hand claps…they’ve got a whole cannon of tricks and talents, and they somehow manage to blend all of these styles together to create beautiful songs that represent what music was created to be: catchy, heartfelt, and emotional. Add to that the raw power and emotion in their live show and you’ve got a band that has just nailed the equation for a successful performance.

Delta Rae proved something to me tonight that until now I wasn’t sure they had in them. They showed me that they are some of the better songwriters I’ve seen in my time, and that they will leave a lasting mark on the music of our generation with their ability to blend historic Southern soul and gospel music with a modern twist of folk, pop, indie rock, and even some heavier rock influences. I learned tonight that Delta Rae is more than just a band; it’s a movement.

Concert Afterglow: This was an incredibly entertaining show. I’ll have “Darling If” stuck in my head for days, and I am not upset about it. I’m absolutely blown away by the strides this band has made since the last time I saw them live, and I’ll be itching to see them again live on a bigger stage soon.

Recommendation: I will go ahead and say that it wont be long before Delta Rae will be playing on very large stages in front of enormous audiences. No doubt about it, they’ll turn that into a beautiful act, but I urge you to go see them in a small setting while you can. It’s truly a wonderful and intimate experience.

MP3: “Darling If” – Delta Rae

“Surrounded” – Running Lights (performed this evening by Delta Rae)

Footage from the show: (apologies for shakiness)



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Delta Rae – If I Loved You

Delta Rae

For all of you folk lovers, Delta Rae might be one of your new favorite bands. I posted their cover of Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” back in the day and it got rave reviews. This song is more traditional folky music, but it’s incredibly solid. The thing about Delta Rae is that if you’re not a fan of folk music, you could potentially hate them. Reason being, they’ve got that southern soul feel that might seem off-putting to those who don’t dabble with their genre. To fans of folk music, though, they have crafted a sound so full and true to themselves that it’s almost incredible what a young and relatively new band they are. Here’s an example of a song they released as part of their “gRAEt Mondays” series that shows a bit of their bite intertwined with their innocent folk image. They’re certainly making a name for themselves, and if they continue on this path toward showing a bit more edge, I could certainly see them making incredibly big strides in the future.

MP3: “If I Loved You” – Delta Rae

Upcoming Tour Dates:

  • Friday, July 22 – Rockwood Music Hall – New York City, NY
  • Thursday, July 28 – Capital Alehouse – Richmond, VA
  • Friday, July 29 – The Pour House – Raleigh, NC
  • Friday, August 26 – Casbah – Durham, NC

Last bit: fun fact for those of you who aren’t aware. Eric Holljes, a member of Delta Rae, cowrote “Cooler Than Me” with Mike Posner. Go Duke!

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Eric Holljes – American Tune (Paul Simon Cover)

Eric Holljes

Wake up, sleepyheads! It’s Thursday and my good friend Eric Holljes has a beautiful acoustic tune for all of us. There’s a good little six-degrees-of-separation story here, are yall ready for this? I’ll make it simple and put it in bullet points.

  • I went to college with Eric Holljes
  • Eric went to college with Mike Posner
  • Eric and Mike met in the Fall of 2007 and immediately teamed up musically to create Mike Posner & The Brain Trust
  • Eric & Mike cowrote and recorded “Cooler Than Me”
  • “Cooler Than Me” reached Platinum status
  • After his success with Mike Posner, Eric later got signed as a songwriter by Warner/Chappell Music
  • Mike Posner always said that one of his greatest inspirations was Paul Simon
  • Here we have Eric Holljes, as a single act, doing a cover of Paul Simon
  • As a side project, Eric is in a band called Delta Rae
  • Delta Rae has been featured on Sunset in the Rearview several times, most recently in their acoustic cover of Kanye West’s “All of the Lights”

So that’s a bit scattered – but it is in real life, too. It’s just a testament to the juggling that Eric Holljes does a musician. His plate is full, but he somehow manages to hit the ball out of the park with every project he touches.

Download “American Tune” (Paul Simon Cover) – Eric Holljes

Credit to CFen of GMAD for the heads up

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All of the Lights (Delta Rae Cover) – Kanye West

Delta Rae is back with another GRAET MONDAY song. Last we heard from them, they were covering Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” which wasn’t an easy feat. This week, Kanye West? Damn. They’re really hitting up the big dogs. I’ll say, though. The biggest similarity to Kanye West that they have with this song is the possibility of having a seizure when watching the video. Other than that, they totally rearrange the hip hop song, infusing it with folk influences and choral sonic attributes. Had I been told a couple months ago that this folk band, the majority of whose members are extremely blonde, would be holding their own when covering Kanye West, I might have laughed. Joke’s on me, I suppose. Hit the jump to watch the video.

Delta Rae || Website || Twitter || Facebook

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Delta Rae – Rolling in the Deep (Adele Cover)

Yes, Delta Rae. THIS is what I’ve been waiting for from yall. Some TOTAL SASS from Brittany on the mic. BAM. I love it.

Delta Rae is a local band based out of Durham, NC that has shared the stage with Edwin McCain and recently won the Southeastern Battle of the Bands competition! This song is part of their GRAET MONDAYS series and it covers the wonderful Adele.

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Delta Rae – gRAEt mondays

Delta Rae

Local band Delta Rae have just announced that they will release a free song every Monday for 12 weeks. Each song will have specialized artwork, potential merchandise, and will be available for free download. There are a lot of groups/artists hopping on this movement right now, likely following Kanye’s lead (he wasn’t the first person to start this, but there’s no denying that he’s a trailblazer). And you know what? I totally agree with this campaign effort. There might be nothing that fans like better than free music.

So here’s the first of Delta Rae’s Graet Monday singles…one day late. This song is called “Deliver.” I have traditionally been pretty tough on this local band, and I still have my criticisms, but I also see their incredible talent. I think the part I struggle with is that I don’t necessarily get wooed by their content matter. It’s a little too sappy for me, but there’s absolutely no denying that their music is absolutely beautiful. Their ability to BUILD the music as the song progresses is almost unparalleled. I’m looking forward to hearing more of their GRAET Monday singles!

Download “Deliver” – Delta Rae

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Delta Rae – Album Review

Eric Holljes, who was the co-songwriter, beside Mike Posner, for “Cooler Than Me,” which is now hitting radios nationwide, is a multitalented man! Not only did he form one third of “Mike Posner and the Brain Trust,” he also has been in bands, does solo work, and does songwriting for other hit pop artists. Currently, what seems to be his main project is his 6-man band by the name of Delta Rae. One half of this band consists of Holljes offspring, and it blows my mind that each one of them is so musically talented.

I went to their Debut EP Release party on Monday evening and decided to write a formal review of it right here on Sunset. Now, one might think that I am biased because Eric is a friend of mine, but I myself have given Eric some harsh criticism on some of his work, and particularly his work with Delta Rae. But what I saw on Monday night was far different from what I heard when the band was just beginning. (However, I am still going to try to be as honest of a critic as possible, with the main intent being to help Delta Rae move forward in certain areas.)

This piece here, “Morning Comes,” was not only the opener of the show but it is also the opener on the EP. And if you ask me, they couldn’t have made a better decision. This piece is, in my opinion, their strongest and the most catchy. Right as they started playing, hands and feet scattered around the crowd started clapping to the clap-along beats that begin right around the 0:25 mark and repeat twice throughout the song. Talk about a hook! The second time the clap came around, the whole bar chimed in. And now, after listening to the song over and over again in my car to and from work, I feel I might be clapping in my sleep. Wonderful song, and I have little doubt that it’s as great as any hit folk song out there right now.

I’m not going to go through every song on the EP in detail, but I will tell you this: my favorites are “Morning Comes,” “Darlin’ If,” and “Holding On To Good.” I believe the band is on the path to success, but there are a few areas that I would change up a bit if I were them, and here’s what they are:

1. It’s a great quality and showcase of talent to have 4 of the 6 band members blessed with incredible pipes, but my concern with having a different main singer on every song but one, in the long run, is that the music will not be very recognizable as Delta Rae material. If I had to choose one main singer, I would choose Eric. I think he has the strongest voice of them all. I think Ian may have the weakest voice (he sings “Young and Pretty”), but keep in mind this is comparative. If I could ever be given the power of Ian’s voice, I would never stop singing. Between the two girls, it’s hard to say whose voice is better. Brittany (sings “Holding On To Good”) has some super soul in her voice, but I think Elizabeth has a bit more of an easy-listening voice on the softer vocals. Either way, I would pick one dominant singer when we’re talking about the long-run. And may I add, I think I would melt if they had a song that did a bit of call-and-response or boy-to-girl vocals. I think they’re the perfect group for that.

2. The song structure is a bit too similar at times. The majority of the songs I heard start small, get heavier, and end quietly, with vocals backed by very little instrumentals. If this could be varied a bit more, the songs that do that would stand out more, and I think that would be a good thing. To add to that, one of my favorite parts of any of Eric’s songs is when he slides his hand down the piano keys in “Good In My Hood.” It’s BIG, it’s EXCITING, and it gets you pumped up. I think this move is a little overused in Delta Rae’s songs. It just takes a bit of the excitement out of things when it’s used too often.

3. I’m biased on this one because I’m not as keen on folky, country-sounding music as I am on more catchy tunes, though I wouldn’t venture as far as calling what I’m looking for pop. But I found myself desiring a bit more songs that are upbeat. Like I said, “Morning Comes” was unforgettable. “Darlin’ If” is a sing-along song. But the slower songs seemed one too many, and despite the truthfulness and soul in them, I think I leaned a bit more toward the upbeat songs. Don’t get me wrong-it’s great to have a variety, but in moving forward, keep producing some of those catchy tunes that will hook your audience!

That’s it for constructive criticism. It really was a great show. And like I said, I’ve given Eric some tough critiques about this band. But I was thoroughly pleased, and right when I thought I’d walk out wishing for a bit more out of such potential, they ended with a killer song that would remain stuck in my head for a full day (“Darlin If”) to sweep away my premonitions. Overall, great work by Delta Rae, and I really look forward to watching this band progress.


Live performance: 9.5/10

Music: 8/10

Please head on over to iTunes or Amazon to purchase their EP.

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