By Peter Cronin
Getting Down With the Delta Saints
They met as students at Nashville’s Christian-leaning Belmont University, but they’ve never been confused with saints. And only one of them grew up anywhere near the delta. But with a whip-smart, harp-and-dobro driven take on the blues, the four young Music Business majors known collectively as the Delta Saints are throwing down a raucous and righteous sound that more than lives up to their adopted name. With two artfully packaged, self-released EPs and a killer live DVD already on the market, the Delta Saints – frontman/dobro player Ben Ringel, bassist David Supica, drummer Ben Azzi and harmonica wizard Greg Hommert – have spent the last few years cultivating a serious buzz and a rabid fan base around Music City and throughout the southeast. Not bad for a bunch of campus misfits.
From those first collaborations it was clear that, despite some wildly divergent musical roots, they’d stumbled onto something special.
“The music I did previous to this was white boy funk; it was nothing like this,” says Ringel. “Bring in Dave, with his Motown influences and Ben, who’s more pop/punk, for some reason it all just kind of fit.” Jamming endlessly on Ringel’s greasy slide licks, the band began to pick up creative steam and some intriguing songs began to emerge. But something wasn’t quite right.
“It perpetually sounded like there was something missing, and for a while there we couldn’t figure out what it was,” says drummer Azzi. “That’s when we brought Greg in to fill in, to see what he would do. Right away it was like, ‘Yep, that was what was missing.’”
Indeed, on stage and in the studio, Hommert ‘s distinctive harmonica - a potent mix of Little Walter’s banshee wail, a full-on horn section and a fast-approaching freight train – provides the sonic glue that holds the Delta Saints’ blues-drenched explorations so firmly together.
“The songs generally start with an idea for a very basic riff and skeleton lyrics,” Ringel says. “Then I’ll bring it to Dave and Ben and we’ll construct the music. Greg typically comes in at the end and adds the shine.”
With four strong contributors pulling in divergent directions, the Delta Saints admit that their songwriting sessions can sometimes be akin to “pulling teeth.” But it’s that same creative push-and-pull that makes it work and keeps it real.
“I hope that conflict is always there,” Ringel says. “It’s the ones that you write and they hurt, those are the ones.”