Take some Mississippi Delta Blues, shake it down with some heavy guitar licks, throw in some soul, and add the merest touch of gospel, and you have the sound of Delta Deep.
The brainchild of Def Leppard lead guitarist Phil Collen, Delta Deep also features Stone Temple Pilots alumnus, Robert DeLeo on bass; Debbi Blackwell-Cook, known for her backing vocals for Michael Buble and Luther Vandross; and Grammy Award winner, Forrest Robinson, who’s drummed for the likes of India.Arie, Joe Sample & the Crusaders, Ray Parker Junior, and Engelbert Humperdinck.
Phil Collen came up with the idea for Delta Deep in 2012 while jamming with Debbi Blackwell-Cook, godmother of his wife, Helen. The three started writing original music, which they then recorded in Collen’s home studio. Soon after, Phil ran into Forrest Robinson, and invited him to join them. The band was not yet complete: Chris Epting, who had been collaborating with Collen on his biography, ‘Adrenalized: Life, Def Leppard and Beyond’, suggested they give Robert DeLeo a call. Collen says,
“We really wanted Robert in this band. He had the added firepower of being the premiere pioneer and most ‘badassed bass player’ to come out of the alternative rock explosion.”
The eponymous album of Delta Deep is a mix of original songs and sultry covers of classics, such as ‘Private Number’, made famous by 60s soul singers, Judy Clay and William Bell. It’s been given the Delta Deep treatment – heavy on guitars while at the same time taking nothing away from the sexy smokey voices and Blackwell-Cook and guest vocalist, David Coverdale (Whitesnake).
Guest performers are a-plenty on this album: Collen’s bandmate, Joe Elliott guests on ‘Mistreated’, while Paul Cook (drums for the Sex Pistols), and GIRL bass player, Simon Laffy, another of Collen’s former bandmates, feature on the cover, ‘Black Coffee’.
While Delta Deep initially might seem miles away from the style of Def Leppard, it’s in listening to this album that one realises how much the Leppards owe to the blues. When asked why he decided to start a blues project, Collen answered,
“Blues was created out of something completely different from what we hear today. I grew up listening to rock music but then I found out it was all based on blues. Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Ritchie Blackmore, Jimi Hendrix, all of those guys….they got it from the blues. When I hear Debbi sing, I can hear the pain. She’s an incredibly beautiful 62 year old black woman who has been through things and she can sing through her pain. Not everyone can do that and not everyone sounds like Debbi.”
‘Delta Deep’ is a quality album, reflecting just how skilled and talented the band is – both collectively and as individual members. The original tracks and classic covers have been mixed to perfection, ensuring that no one song is given more or less love and devotion than any other.