Reviews of Delta Man

PARIS-MOVE BLUES MAGAZINE (FRANCE)

Patrick Dallongeville

December 16, 2021

Bobby Allison & Gerry Spehar/Delta Man (Great)

 

These two guys turn out to be a kind of equivalent of Leiber & Stoller in their catalogue. Imagine the Eagles with a heart and a brain, it's that good!

 

Just five years ago, I would have reviewed this with a shrug and a yawn, and it would have been done in the blink of an eye. Think about it:  We are talking about two guys from the sticks who pride themselves on celebrating forty years of friendship by recording a “best of” their collaborative compositions (and to top it off, these has-beens pour on the country music) … Displaying their handsome faces from their young splendor on the cover seems more neo-Christian marketing (with a touch of redneck) than some weed-smoking outlaw. Except that when you listen to them, these two guys turn out to be a kind of equivalent of Leiber & Stoller in their catalogue: Songwriters able to move the average person by talking to him about his wife's depression (“Baby's Got The Blues”), or of his own late repentance when facing imminent decrepitude (“Bite The Bullet”), or even of his dismay at his 22 year-old daughter dangerously exposing herself to the appetites of lawless hooligans for speed-fucks in the parking lots of redneck clubs (“Kinda Like Love” which Molly Hatchet covered back in the day). And ragtime tunes like “Just Relax” (blaring like Ray Davies half a century ago) have the old-fashioned charm of “Look A Little On The Sunny Side” and “Mama Told Me Not To Come” by our beloved Kinks and Randy Newman, while the Tex-Mex “Money” (Calexico style) quotes Dan Cooper (the hijacker who vanished in a parachute with $250,000 in ransom money never recovered), and could have by been another pair of versifiers, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.

Damn, what if these two real-fake blue collars turn out to be genuine contemporary satirists? The title track and “Train Train Train” sound like JJ Cale and Buddy Holly meeting in Heaven (maybe they even recorded them there), while “Rockin‘ On A Country Dance Floor” (with its break briefly quoting “Day Tripper”) and “Bubba Billy Boom Boom & Me” evoke Commander Cody, Asleep At The Wheel’s Ray Benson and the Jordanaires. The country-bluesy “Eye Of The Needle” and “River” recall Neil Young from “On The Beach,” while “25 Miles To Brady” is reminiscent of the late Tony Joe White. Don't be fooled by their pitch trying to sell you that one of these gray beards is in a wheelchair since a car accident, while the other had to take a serious job to raise his family (hell, we all know cases like this, right?). All that matters to people like us is music and song, and these guys are goldsmiths at it. Decidedly closer to Jimmy Tittle (“Balmorhea”, “Here In The Pass”) than to Randy Travis, Bobby Allison and Gerry Spehar unveil here authentic nuggets of songwriting, to which the next generation of I See Hawks In LA also contributes. Imagine the Eagles with a heart and a brain (it's complicated, but give it a try), it's that good!

 

 

MIDWEST RECORD REVIEW (US)

December 18, 2021

Bobby Allison & Gerry Spehar/Delta Man

 

A totally first class diamond in the rough.

 

Hit songwriters that have been pals through 40 years of changes, the only constant being they never put their guitars down, deliver a “and then I wrote” set that blows it’s own horn by not blowing it’s own horn.  As back porch as you could want it, these country boys never lost their country boyishness and it’s all as charming as it is well written and solidly performed.  A totally first class diamond in the rough. 

 

 

LONESTAR TIME (ITALY)

Remo Ricaldone

December 23, 2021

Bobby Allison & Gerry Spehar/Delta Man

 

A remarkable tribute to the musicality of this pair of fast friends. A record whose variety of themes and interpretations, all honest and convincing, is its trump card.


Bobby Allison and Gerry Spehar's is a long-standing friendship cemented by shared ideals and an artistic affinity that goes back to the Colorado singer-songwriter scene in the seventies, then on to Nashville in the following decades. “Delta Man” now celebrates this strong bond passionately and convincingly in a roundup of sounds ranging from Country Music to Rock’n'Roll, with Southern inflections, in an absolutely natural and captivating whole and with surprising skill in the search for melody and vocal harmonies. Although a serious car accident in 1975 forced Bobby Allison into a wheelchair and recent Parkinsons-related problems made singing difficult, his enormous willpower and the fundamental help of Gerry Spehar made this album a remarkable tribute to those years and to the musicality of this pair of fast friends, with instrumental contributions by some real ‘Nashville Cats' such as, among others, Lonnie Wilson on drums, Denny Osburn on bass and keyboards, Pete Wasner on piano and synth, George Marinelli and Paul Lacques (from I See Hawks In LA) on electric guitars and Gabe Witcher on fiddle. Well balanced and pleasing, the album opens with “Kindal Like Love” evoking the California country-rock seventies and continues with a beautiful selection of songs, penned almost entirely by the Allison/Spehar combo, that take us from Country (“Bite The Bullet", "The Good Life", the soft and acoustic "River", "Balmorhea” loaded with emotion) to Rock ("Delta Man", "Rockin' On A Country Dance Floor", "Bubba Billy Boom Boom And Me", "Train Train Train”, the first referencing JJ Cale) to "Just Relax” evoking Randy Newman and New Orleans with taste, and "Money” visiting the Deep South with its 'swamp' nods.  A record whose variety of themes and interpretations, all honest and convincing, is its trump card.

 

 

MUSIC NEWS (UK)

Andy Snipper

December 29, 2021

Bobby Allison & Gerry Spehar/Delta Man (4 Stars)

 

The playing never falls below excellent. All the songs have something to listen to and hooks that are just divine.

 

This falls more squarely in the Country & Western bag than the Americana one but with the history of both Bobby Allison and Gerry Spehar, both individually and together, this was never going to be less than good and occasionally it strays into stunning territory.

The two have been knocking around together since the early 1980’s either playing in competing bands, together competing in the Wrangler Country Showdown and coming second in the grand finals at the Grand Ol Opry in Nashville. After Gerry decided to settle down in LA, Bobby continued playing (winning the Grand Finals as a solo act) but still writing together and carousing as only two brothers can.

 

Allison has been in a wheelchair since a car accident in 1975 and is now fighting against Parkinson’s Disease and this serves as a retrospective to the songs they wrote together and contributed to over the years. It has elements of all that time together, songs going back to the eighties and as late as last year and played with and covered by some of Country music’s royalty.

The playing all through the album never falls below excellent but you listen to an album like this for the stories more than the fine musicianship and the stories are there in spades. From opener ‘Kinda Like Love’ about desperate hook-ups in a bar parking lot, to the honky-tonk ‘Just Relax’ or the title track all the songs have something to listen to, something to interpret and hooks that are just divine.

 

I particularly enjoyed the way that the styles changed with the vocal lead but that it all hangs together as the two men hold the central focus.
 

A very fine album and a great start to the year.

 

 

LIVERPOOL SOUND AND VISION (UK)

Ian D. Hall

January 3, 2022

Bobby Allison & Gerry Spehar/Delta Man (9/10)

 

Delta Man is enormous, in both sound and depth.  A country album of endless intriguing subtlety where the aural river flows to mix with the ocean of dreams.

 

The word retrospective should always bring joy to the ears of the music lover. By its very existence it sounds more alluring, grander, more encompassing than the idea of a ‘greatest hits’ or the notion of a ‘best of’, for in its design it is surely meant to inform the listener of the totality of the music on offer rather than being picked as a crowd pleaser, an album which is designed to be in the charts rather than educating the intrigued with an entire catalogue of work.

 

Sometimes a retrospective will  not only charm and illuminate, it will open the doors of all that you have missed, all that could have played out in front of you; for whilst we do not have the time to listen to everything that has been created in our life time, we owe it to ourselves to step away from the comfort of familiarity and search down the river of aural whispers and see where those songs have sprung from, from which stranger tides our eyes have become enthralled.

 

Few outside of the Country genre will have come across Bobby Allison or Gerry Spehar, and whilst that is no sin, no crime of passion has been invoked, just by listening to the tracks that encompass the spirit of their work in the extraordinary Delta Man, it is possible to feel more than a tinge of regret that you had not found them before.

Delta Man is enormous, in both sound and depth, and it still barely scratches the surface of what the listener can find by rooting through their respective contributions, together and apart, to the music world, one that they have given great pleasure to the world as they opened for some of the big names at the time in their formative association, or indeed as they present this piece of history.

 

Across tracks such as Bite The Bullet, Baby’s Got The Blues, The Good Life, the superb Rockin’ On A Country Dance Floor, Eye Of the Needle, Bubba Billy Boom Boom & Me, and the absolute sheer beauty and melancholy of 25 Miles To Brady, what these two men, these two observant troubadours have brought to the scene, to the heart of the listener’s souls, is appreciation, is a groove, a pulse that makes a difference to the day, and for that Delta Man is a glorious summery of presentation.

 

Captivating, cool, an unexpected delivery of finesse and cheer, a country album of endless intriguing subtlety; Delta Man is where the aural river flows to mix with the ocean of dreams, proving that given the right audience, the drops of musical water can soon become part of something unbeatable. Bobby Allison and Gerry Spehar’s Delta Man is released on January 21st.

 
UNCUT MAGAZINE (UK)

Luke Torn

March, 2022

Bobby Allison & Gerry Spehar/Delta Man (8/10)

 

Melodic, guitar-driven gems abound.

 

Undercover history:  the rambling story of C&W connoisseurs.

The Texas-Colorado duo Allison and Spehar opened shows for the stars, dug hard for Nashville success and wrote songs constantly – fine overviews of rural life – but their work was denied a national spotlight.  This set traces their journey, the 15 songs deep into country tradition but stretching out into Southern rock, rockabilly revival and the blues.  Melodic, guitar-driven gems abound:  “Train Train Train”, shifting the view of
Elvis’ “Mystery Train”, and the rocker “Delta Man” are standouts, while “Bite The Bullet”, envisioning one’s youth and paying its price, would have made Billy Joe Shaver proud.

 

 

MUSICRIOT (UK)

Allan McKay

January 17, 2022

Bobby Allison & Gerry Spehar/Delta Man (4 Stars)

 

Delta Man is packed with great songs and a wonderful celebration of forty years of friendship and collaboration between two very talented singer/songwriters.

 

Here we go; it’s the first album review of 2022 and we’re starting on a high. “Delta Man” isn’t just an album packed with great songs, it’s also a wonderful celebration of over forty years of friendship and collaboration between two very talented and very different singer/songwriters. The fifteen (quantity as well as quality) songs on the album span almost the entire period of their friendship. Bobby and Gerry bring very different strengths to the partnership; Bobby’s a songwriter with country and honkytonk influences and a great voice who’s had a fairly conventional ride through the music business (if such a thing exists), while Gerry pulls in influences from rock and jazz (among other styles), plays a mean guitar and took time out from performing in the mid-eighties to bring up his family in LA before coming back to music full-time in 2017. The varying musical influences and career paths make for a very potent writing partnership.

 

The opening song of the album is an example of the almost random art of hitmaking. “Kinda Like Love” is a fabulous piece of songwriting that should have been a huge country hit. It’s amazing that it’s never been picked up by a major artist (although it’s still not too late, you can imagine a Luke Combs cover working really well). It was covered by Molly Hatchet in the eighties, but didn’t make a huge impact. All the characters are there – the beautiful young woman, the handsome cowboy and the slightly jealous onlookers in the bar and then there’s the classic lyrical and melodic hook in the chorus. Maybe there’s still time for this one.

 

The rest of the album is split fairly equally between Bobby’s conventional country/rock/blues and Gerry’s more eclectic stylings and vocal delivery. It’s noticeable that there are a lot of musical references running through the album and hints at influences from a wide variety of artists. “Rockin’ On a Country Dance Floor”, with Bobby Allison’s pure country vocal is a great example; there are nods in the direction of The Allmans and Jerry Lee Lewis and instrumental quotes from The Beatles and Roy Orbison. All of that and a song that’s great fun as well.

 

And that’s just two songs; there’s plenty of variety across the album, from the slow country waltz “The Good Life” with piano and pedal steel and hints of Eagles’ “Take It to the Limit” in the harmonies and the and the descending IV-III-II-I chord progression, to the Bo Diddley feel of “Delta Man” and the rockabilly styling of “Train Train Train” to the “Blue Bayou” feel of “Here In the Pass”. With powerful lyrical messages as well, there’s plenty to keep the interest over fifteen tracks and forty years. Welcome to 2022.  “Delta Man” is out on in the UK on Friday January 21st.

 

 

COUNTRY STANDARD TIME (US)

Jim Hynes

January 21, 2022

Bobby Allison & Gerry Spehar/Delta Man

 

A songwriting triumph.

Upcoming Country CD Releases:  Bobby Allison and Gary Spehar – Delta Man (Self-released) – Gerry Spehar collaborates with his long-time friend and music partner, Bobby Allison. The two have been writing and performing as a duo since 1981. In 1985, they played the Grand Ol Opry as finalists of the Wrangler Country Showdown. In 1986, Allison won the Showdown and a Columbia contract. This album includes their recordings from 1980s Nashville to current L.A.

Review:  Singer-songwriters Bobby Allison and Gerry Spehar are two survivors of the "too much fun" '70s who somehow found some new life on "Delta Man," which comprises mostly tunes originally recorded in Nashville in the '90s and several new ones with the veteran band, I See Hawks in L.A. (ISHILA). The musicians who back the pair on this mostly rollicking country rocking outing include some of the best from Music City - Pete Wasner, George Marinelli, Michael Rhodes and Rick Plant.

The album kicks off with one from those Nashville sessions – a barroom pickup song with the memorable chorus – "It's not a long way from the dance floor to/the dark of the parking lot/It's kinda like love, but it's not." "Bite the Bullet" carries a Waylon-like vibe, as they sing of ditching the party life, which has taken its share of tolls. "Baby's Got the Blues" is a crooning ballad, sung beautifully by Allison. Spehar is the lead vocalist on "Just Relax," a horn-infused throwback song, which with a gravellier vocal, might be mistaken as a Tom Waits tune. On the other hand, he delivers the nostalgic "River" with solid, traditional, country flair.

Spehar takes the shuffle "Money" with equal doses of swagger and wit. It's the first of three done with ISHILA, who also back on the title track, one of the most recent tunes as well as the stomper "25 Miles to Brady," all featuring Spehar on the vocal lead. Members of the Hawks also contribute to some of the disc's finest tunes – "Here in the Pass," which carries some of ISHILA's hallmark psychedelia; "Balmorhea," imbued by Punch Brothers' Gabe Witcher's haunting fiddle and the yearning, laconic "Eye of the Needle," the latter two featuring Allison's vocal lead.

"The Good Life" is classic weeping country with Farmer Pete on the pedal steel and Allison on lead vocal with Lisa McKenzie on charming harmony. Allison shows he's got that honky-tonk feel down on the radio friendly "Rockin' on a Country Dance Floor" and again on "Bubba Billy Boom Boom & Me." 

Those two cliché-ridden tunes aside, the other tracks never suffer from "sameness" in this songwriting triumph that traverses several moods, ultimately leaving an upbeat feeling.

 

 
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (US)

Steven Wine

January 20, 2022

Bobby Allison & Gerry Spehar/Delta Man


“We was dynamite, y’all!” Allison sings. They still are.

 

The new album by longtime songwriting collaborators Bobby Allison and Gerry Spehar includes an exuberant self-assessment on “Bubba Billy Boom Boom & Me,” a tune as entertaining as its title.

“We was dynamite, y’all!” Allison sings.

They still are. “Delta Man” collects 15 songs spotlighting an under-the-radar partnership now in its fifth decade.

Allison grew up in New Mexico and has been working the troubadour circuit since he was a teenager. Spehar, a Colorado native, stopped performing in the 1980s but has continued to write with Allison. While some of these recordings date back as far as 1998, all were completed last year.

Twang provides a unifying element, but Spehar and Allison cover a range of styles. They take turns on lead vocals, and Allison is an especially versatile singer who’s at his best crooning the lovely “Baby’s Got the Blues.”

The duo’s roots show on “Rockin’ On a Country Dance Floor,” which references Elvis, the Beatles and Roy Orbison, while jazzy horns back Spehar on “Just Relax.” The title cut is a reminder Molly Hatchet once covered an Allison song, and the amusing “25 Miles to Brady” salutes a certain quarterback.

Allison and Spehar can’t match Tom Brady when it comes to trophies, but they share his staying power.

 

 

ORANGE FLAG MUSIC (NETHERLANDS)

January 24, 2022

Bobby Allison & Gerry Spehar/Delta Man (4 Stars)

 

This kind of uplifting music makes you want to dance. Bobby Allison and Gerry Spehar had the talent and potential to be big.

 

The great thing about country music is that so much has been made over the years. I am amazed by that every day. Take Bobby Allison and Gerry Spehar, for example, two friends who made a splash in the 1970s and 1980s. This is how Delta Man came about, a music document that celebrates the heyday of these two gentlemen. And what a one. Delta Man is not a brand new album with all new songs, but songs that Allison and Spehar have recorded over the years. However, that doesn't really matter much because these aren't leftovers or B-sides. This record is a full-fledged album that interweaves rockabilly with country in an excellent way. Occasionally it rocks and rattles, but the gentlemen also show their sensitive side. Something I really like.

The album opener Kinda Like Love grabs you instantly, and I'm amazed it didn't become a big hit in the nineties. This is country as country should be, and would fit right in with other artists of the time such as George Strait, Alan Jackson and Travis Tritt. Listening to this song is a lesson that keeps you in its grip for 15 songs.

The rockabilly and honkytonk vibe is what makes this album so interesting. Although the ballads are also good, you notice that Bobby Allison and Gerry Spehar are at their best with up-tempo songs. This kind of uplifting music makes you ecstatic and want to dance. I can totally see the music of Delta Man in bars and honky tonks, even in this day and age. Because even though the songs aren't new, it sounds like they were produced today.

Why aren't Bobby Allison and Gerry Spehar big names in country music? First, because Gerry Spehar chose a normal work life over a music career. Bobby Allison did opt for a music career, performing in casinos and cities across the United States, and Allison's experiences in his non-stop performances inspired him to write new songs. Yet there was no major breakthrough and that is a pity. What I hear on Delta Man are two men with a love for music who know how to convey that in a perfect way.

We have to make do with Delta Man, an album of the past. But from a production-technical point of view, the record sounds very tight and current. Bobby Allison and Gerry Spehar had the talent and potential to be big, but the music world is unpredictable. Predicting who will and will not break through is almost impossible. It takes hard work, a lot of luck and many other factors. Delta Man is an album that is a must for every country lover, and should not be missed. They are both still alive and with this record they can look back on a wonderful music career.  Self-released