The Folk Rock of Delta Rae

Hannah McKeen ‘19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Folk rock is a subgenre that creates a distinctive mix of affection and force. The Byrds were folk-rock trailblazers of the 1960s. and the movement they created is being revived today. Their first smash hit Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965) featured a mix of bright melodies and twelve-string guitars, which was a different sound for the era of psychedelic rock. The infusion of sixties pop with traditional acoustic music led to the birth of folk rock.

Modern folk rock groups have expanded upon that simplicity by adding banjos, violins, and tambourines. Folk rock calls for unique instrument pairings — like electric guitar with viola, or piano and stand up bass. All of this intermixing somehow always results in a musical masterpiece. Artists like Mumford and Sons, Of Monsters and Men, James Bay, and The Avett Brothers have taken over the folk rock scene and are all over the Billboard charts.

An up and coming group of folk rock experts is Durham, North Carolina natives Delta Rae

Folk-rock group Delta Rae.
Folk-rock group Delta Rae.

The band is a family affair, consisting of three siblings and three of their close friends. Brittany, Eric, and Ian Hölljes came together with Elizabeth Hopkins, Grant Emerson, and Mike McKee in 2009 on a mission to revive folk rock.

Delta Rae performing in Portland, ME. Photo Credit: Hannah McKeen
Delta Rae performing in Portland, ME. Photo Credit: Hannah McKeen

The band released their first album, Carry the Fire, which hit 13 on the iTunes folk chart, in 2012. “Bottom of the River” was the most successful song on this record, and has nearly five million plays on Spotify. This song succeeds because of its rich harmonies and Brittany Hölljes’s wrathful belting. The use of chains as percussion creates an impassioned and rhythmic gospel atmosphere. Instrumentals are intense and the crisp vocals on top create the mix of affection and force that The Byrds also identified with.

Their sophomore album, After It Allwas released in 2015 and features “My Whole Life Long,”  which takes on a feeling of country and paints a delightful picture of eternal love.

With each album, one minute you’re swaying along to a romantic ballad, and the next you’re tapping your foot to an upbeat breakup tune. The contrast between “Bottom of the River” and “My Whole Life Long” stresses force versus affection and asserts their diverse musical capabilities.

During Delta Rae’s live performances there are more instruments on the stage than there are people. If you think their music is powerful through a pair of earphones, you will be forever changed after seeing them live. You become mesmerized by their natural chemistry and their ability to float around the stage to all of the different instruments.

They transition from angelic harmonies to synchronized stomping in the blink of an eye. This change of pace is hypnotizing because even when a song starts soft, they take it somewhere powerful by the end.

It is impressive how Delta Rae is gaining popularity without being an over-produced and marketed group. They are a true force in the music industry as they popularize a genre that is becoming more relevant every day. The cohesion of their instrumentals and vocals proves that Delta Rae is a force to be reckoned with.


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