"Goin' Down South"

Deep Rush

Last year Delta Moon won the Blues Foundation's International Challenge for unsigned acts, even though this Atlanta outfit is a most unorthodox blues band. The genre is unarguably the foundation for the group's new album, "Goin' Down South," but the quintet brings in jam-band improvisation, singer-songwriter irony and hillbilly twang to put a spin on the blues that reminds one of Dave Alvin & the Guilty Men or the North Mississippi Allstars.

Delta Moon is led by Tom Gray, the guy whose song "Money Changes Everything" was an underground hit for his new-wave band the Brains in 1980 and an above-ground hit for Cyndi Lauper in 1984. Gray has schooled himself in traditional American music since then, but his gift for catchy, ironic songwriting remains intact.

He wrote or co-wrote seven of the 11 songs here, and several of them describe the boundary in a relationship between the low stakes of convenience and the high stakes of caring. On "That's It," backed by Hooker-boogie slide guitars, he warns against the pain of caring too much, but on the swampy "Dreams Come Real," he warns against the frustration of caring too little.

Gray shares the slide-guitar duties with Mark Johnson and the lead-vocal duties with Gina Leigh. Leigh's silky, slippery soprano holds its own with Vassar Clements's fiddle on "Stone Cold Man" and with Mike Auldridge's dobro on "All She Wrote." Delta Moon is so versatile that it can find the rock 'n' roll in songs by J.B. Lenoir and R.L. Burnside and the blues in David Bowie and Iggy Pop's "Nightclubbing."

-- Geoffrey Himes

Appearing Saturday at Madam's Organ. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Delta Moon, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8105. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)