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The Deltaz Close Out Their Week in Chicago at Moe's Tavern Tonight

Thursday, July 24, 2014 Rob Samuelson

Southern California roots band The Deltaz are enjoying their peaceful stay in Chicago this week, which ends tonight with a show at Moe's Tavern on Milwaukee. Yes, like TheSimpsons, but real. The guys in the band, brothers John and Ted Siegel, are happy with our Midwestern oasis in the middle of a long tour that has shown them the best and worst of America's quirks.

But their week in Chicago has been uneventful. They like it that way, especially when compared with the nightmare imagery they saw in New Orleans recently.

Ted tells it best. I don't need to get all literary an interjection-y with narration.

“We saw two guys get jumped in New Orleans, like, bloody. That was kind of strange. It was horrific. We were coming out of a gig in New Orleans. We'd heard about how New Orleans is kind of crime ridden with violence. We didn't think too much of it. You know, you can be kind of ignorant when you're in a new place. We were coming out of a show and all of a sudden these two big guys, big touristy looking guys, come running up to us and they were covered in blood. It looked unreal. They were like, 'Oh my God, we were just jumped and robbed. Someone call the police.' They were covered in blood. It was actually kind of a frightening experience.”

John, recognizing the robbers could still be around, made a sound decision.

We just hurried back to our car and left,” he says.

They were glad to put that night behind them to focus on the rest of their time on the road.

On one hand, John is excited for their upcoming western swing to the mountainous state of Colorado, but he's also a bit reticent because of its uniquely challenging geography.

I used to have asthma … You get out of breath really easily,” John, the percussionist and harmonica player, says about regulating his breathing at altitude.

He says he's mostly gotten over it through the constant cardiovascular exercise that comes with being behind a drum kit. He says it helps that the harmonica is an instrument that allows the player to breathe both in and out while playing it.

But it's not all challenges on tour. They did a float trip down a Tennessee river and fired their first guns in Texas with a tourmate's ex-Marine brother.

“He heard we're from California and we'd never shot a gun before,” Ted says.

“We didn't just shoot one gun,” John says.

“We shot a whole range of guns,” Ted says. “We did shotguns and rifles and hand guns and all that stuff.”

“We're not really proud of it, but you should shoot a gun once in your life,” John says.

These are peaceful brothers. They're more interested in playing their shows at their local bar, the Old Place, which has been immortalized in their bluegrassy ode, “This Old Place” and where they occasionally get to hang out with Neil Young's touring bassist, Rick Rosas, and talk about the legends of their chosen profession.

“There's two archetypal figures in our genre, that would be Hank Williams, Sr., and Robert Johnson,” Ted says. “You can draw so much from [them].”

They have learned much, from the detailed story songs of Williams to the swampy, pinky slide-assisted blues of Johnson. Their music sounds like it is written and recorded inside a bog, with no over-production to be found, pure bare bones.

“There's this really diluted pop music” currently dominating the country charts, Ted says, and he and his brother look to remedy that, because the tradition they see in country and blues music is stronger than the fleeting songs we hear now about how good girls look in blue jeans.

“It's the most distilled form, American blues music,” Ted says. “We go through all these parts of the South and we get to play with all these different musicians, and it makes me at least proud to be an American.”

So grab a beer at Moe's tonight to send these American troubadours off to their next destination.

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