DELTA HAINTS’ DEBUT SINGLE AND VIDEO, “ASHES OF MY MOJO,” EVOKES THE POWER OF TRANCE BLUES TO BRIDGE THE GENRE’S TRADITION AND FUTURE
New musical collective from Florida draws on magical symbolism, racial history and beat poetry.
St. Augustine — Delta Haints and their debut release, “Ashes of My Mojo,” come from a place in the musical cosmos where Muddy Waters meets Morphine. Where the revelations of the deepest blues and soul serve as a wedge against the troubles of a wicked modern world. And where that modern world breathes fire into the heart of a great American musical style as old and as elemental as the Delta mud.
Led by songwriter, cigar box guitarist and conceptualist Kurt St. Thomas, Delta Haints are a multi-racial group of varied ages and diverse musical backgrounds strongly bound by the sound and spirit of deep blues. The result of that distinctive blend echoes in “Ashes of My Mojo” ’s slow, grinding rhythm, sinuous slide guitar and saxophone, church-inspired keyboard and especially in the mix of lead vocalist Jazzy Blue and supporting singer M.J. Baker, who sounds like a one-woman gospel choir. As Blue, in a gritty baritone that sounds shaped from the soil from which the blues emerged, intones St. Thomas’ allusive lyrics full of dopers, liars, bohemians, brimstone, the Devil himself and that most wicked of travails, love, the music’s transcendental web becomes as hypnotic and seductive as Pandora’s box: There’s trouble inside, but its appeal is undeniable.
Other musicians contributing to “Ashes of My Mojo” ’s sonic kaleidoscope include underground rock and roots legend Rich Gilbert on pedal-steel guitar, drummer Paul Buckley, keyboardist Spencer Albee, saxist Matt Vance, and Lu Rubino on bass. St. Thomas, Buckley and Rubino co-wrote the single, and Rubino also produced and engineered “Ashes of My Mojo” at his Fish Tank Recording studio in St. Augustine.
“The song and the Delta Haints are a result of my moving to St. Augustine three years ago,” explains St. Thomas. “Immediately, I was struck by the amount of incredibly talented musicians here, and, as I spent more time learning about the city, I discovered it had a proud and rich African-American heritage and was vital to the Civil Rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s. As a lifelong lover of the blues, the connection between that heritage, the talent pool, and my songwriting seemed natural.”
But St. Thomas’ musical passions also spread deep into a breadth of other styles, from big band jazz to alternative rock to radical skronk. So his inspirations run from Muddy Waters to Machito to Morphine and beyond. All these elements began to blend in evocations of African-American magic symbolism, the struggle for justice and transcendence, and his own history of derailed romances … and they were woven into William Burroughs- and Mark Sandman-inspired cut-and-paste lyrics and the sounds in St. Thomas’ head, emerging as “Ashes of My Mojo.”
The song’s video, directed by St. Thomas, who is also a noted indie filmmaker, and the single, with a remix B-side, both debut on Record Store Day, August 29, via Lunch Records. The 45 was manufactured at Jack White’s Third Man Pressing in Detroit and is on haint blue vinyl. That shade has its own history in African-American lore, which St. Thomas discovered on his odyssey. The pale green-blue color was originally made from indigo plants, which were common on plantations in the antebellum South, and was thought to keep ghosts, or “haints,” away—although “Ashes from My Mojo” is full of them.