Monday, December 16, 2013

Live review: Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas, Evening Muse (12/13/2013)

Posted By on Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 11:56 AM

Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas
Evening Muse
Dec. 13, 2013

Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas

"I lived in North Carolina for a couple of years," Jessica Hernandez confided to the Evening Muse crowd Friday night. "I went to Oak Ridge Military Academy." Several in the audience gasped an audible "Ooooh!" signaling their belief that Hernandez was confessing to past bad-assery . "But I was a good girl," Hernandez added coyly, not quite correcting that impression.

Given Hernandez's demure-yet-flirty stage presence, which was more playful conversation than polished patter, it was easy to believe that the petite and pretty Hernandez was indeed Miss Goody Two Shoes - until the Detroit dynamo and her tightly coiled Delta's ripped into their percolating and scorching take on retro-noir rock 'n' soul.

In song, Hernandez unleashed cooing, growling rock chick sass, ripping into her electric guitar as her band surged into hip-shaking grooves that drew on '60s Rolling Stones riffs, greasy fatback funk, deliriously ominous psychedelia, fluidly swinging jazz and the Motor City heartbeat of gritty, sweat-soaked soul.

Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas

Stephen Stetson's urgent kick drum, Steve Lehane's pulsing irresistible bass and Taylor Pierson's haunted carousel keys sucked the audience down a delirious surf-garage whirlpool as Hernandez launched into the smoky soul shouter "Caught Up." Yet the insistent groove was just a launching pad for the turbo-charged Deltas as guitarist Michael Krygier unleashed tear-away paisley underground leads and Hernandez's throaty purr segued into a sultry come-on, evoking the behind-the beat slip 'n slide of jazz-blues goddess Billie Holiday.

Hernandez has been likened to the late pop-soul belter Amy Winehouse, and on the surface, the comparison squares. Both pack sassy, swinging wide screen voices into tiny packages, with Hernandez and Winehouse each displaying an innate sense of swing. Yet it was immediately clear to the Muse crowd that Hernandez possessed old-soul street smarts and musical roots that stretched further into the past than like-minded contemporaries like Joss Stone.

Pierson surrounded Hernandez with swirling Brian Auger-style organ as Hernandez channeled the jazzy lilt of Auger's muse, British swinging '60s icon Julie Driscoll, on "Dead Brains." Borne on John Raleeh's surging trombone, the entire band joined in on the song's candy coated pop chorus, that managed to evoke both the Celtic soul of the Waterboys and the uplifting tunefulness of Cat Stevens' '70s output.

Balancing such shiny pop nuggets were the skip-a-beat ska and Nick-Cave-carnival atmospherics of "Big Town" which was buttoned by Pierson's woozy, gloriously sleazy trombone. On "Demons," Hernandez's soaring-yet-unusual Kate-Bush-in-a gin-joint vocal was propelled by reverbed David Lynchian guitar and an insistent, syncopated Curtis Mayfield groove. Sweetly spitting out razors, Hernandez was an unstoppable hurricane on the shimmying, spiteful, demented gypsy jazzer "Sorry I Stole Your Man."

By the time the blistering Crescent City ska of "Shadow Boy" was brought home by Hernandez's impassioned, descending vocal and the keys-and-guitar-borne pysch coda, the dance floor was packed. Hernandez took it down with the alone-at-midnight, soul-baring ballad "Young, Dumb and Drunk," launching into a belting, heart-stopping chorus doubled on brass, bass and drums.

Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas

Yet Hernandez and her Deltas had one more jack-hammering hypnotic groove to unleash on the entranced audience. Riding on the collision of oily, coiling funk and a sleazed-up spy movie soundtrack, "Picture Me with You," drew on gritty trombone before segueing into a sinister samba with swirly spook show Farfisa-styled keys. As Hernandez slipped off her guitar and picked up a set of sticks to beat the hell out of a floor tom, a dramatic and delirious James-Bond-in-Vegas vamp closed out the set to enthusiastic applause.

"Picture" was the perfect snapshot of Hernandez and the Delta's up-to-the-minute update of snotty Stonesy retro-satisfaction. An exhilarating, taunting and downright slutty boast about sleeping around with boyfriends, girlfriends and god knows what else, the tune balanced Hernandez's coyly winking bad-girl appeal with a genuine open heart. Despite the tune's sense of risk, bravado and steamy tease, its message was clear to tempestuous lovers everywhere:
"Don't picture me dead.
Picture me with you."

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