If there ever were a band that could embody the deep and powerful Southern folk-rock spirit of this decade, it would be Delta Rae.
Formed in Durham in 2009, the band’s music has been described as American folk, bluegrass, gospel and rock. But the common thread that runs through all the seamless mixing and matching is the band’s strong bond to the South.
The band is made up of siblings Ian, Eric and Brittany Holljes along with Elizabeth Hopkins, Mike McKee and Grant Emerson. The Holljes brothers, Ian and Eric, were both born in Durham and graduated from Duke University. Their sister, Brittany Holljes, was born when the family was living in Nashville, Tenn.
“I’m in love with the South,” Ian said. “I’m in love with the mythology and the magic, and it has such an influence in our music.”
The infusion of Southern culture has led to some of the band’s most popular hits, including the eerie single “Bottom of the River” and “Dance in the Graveyards.” Even the band’s love songs are filled with a gospel and folk sound. Their most recent single, “If I Loved You,” was re-released after Fleetwood Mac’s guitarist Lindsey Buckingham heard the track and wanted to add his guitar skills to a new take.
Collaborating with Buckingham isn’t the only notch on Delta Rae’s belt.
Since the band started in 2009, it’s released a much-praised debut album, “Carry the Fire,” two EPs, and a sophomore album is set to come out later this year. The band has been selling out well-known venues across the country, and it’s been featured in Time, Rolling Stone and VH1’s “You Oughta Know” program.
“There have been moments when I’ve had to do a double take to realize that my band is here now,” Ian said. “When Delta Rae was featured as one of the ‘You Ought To Know’ artists of VH1, that was huge for me because I watched VH1 religiously while growing up, and that campaign was a big part of my music discovery as a kid.”
The young band has also made waves by taking a political stand with songs and music. They were invited to play at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in 2012 but were unable to make it due to last minute weather-related changes. However, the band played at several of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign stops in 2012 and even released a song, “Chain on Love,” condemning the passage of California’s Proposition 8.
“We’re a band with strong political feelings,” Ian said. “Being in the South, there are still a lot of political issues that needs to be championed, particularly on the issue of gay rights and equality.”
But Ian is wary of not letting the politics overwhelm their music.
“It’s a fine line to walk, but I think we do rely on our artists to shed light on the culture,” he said. “Especially when I think the right and wrong of gay rights is so black and white, I wouldn’t feel comfortable standing on the sidelines of that.”