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“Delta Queen” by Billy Gilman

Bluegrass is one of the most emotional genres in all of Americana, and it doesn’t take much more than a cursory sit down with some of the aesthetic’s modern songwriters to understand why. In “Delta Queen,” bluegrass singer Billy Gilman movingly describes the raw power and awesomeness of emotion not just in his rousing lyrics but in his ethereal rhythm as well. It’s not enough for him to merely paint us a poetic picture of what it feels like to find the soul of a style of music; he feels obligated to take us there spiritually and physically, with a string arrangement that shakes our inner being and melody that will make all of the tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand straight up.

Some have lately wondered aloud what are bluegrass songs going to sound like in the future, beyond the synthetic realms of today and into an even more intricate setup tomorrow. With all of these latest advancements in studio recording technology, it’s farfetched to think about the texture of a song like “Delta Queen” receiving a couple of tweaks just so that we can feel Billy Gilman’s hand taking our own as we embrace all of the heat that the music is trapping inside the room.

I think that he already comes pretty close to doing just that without the assistance of artificial intelligence on this mix, and even though its playing length leaves it feeling somewhat understated and unfulfilling of its potential, there’s still an undeniable vitality to “Delta Queen” that makes it feel like a surge of life and all of its giant feelings. There isn’t much that you have to do to make a song like this a hit, and if I’m being blunt, I think that Billy Gilman might have added a little more gusto than he needed to sell this track. It’s got good bones and was ready to go from its inception just like its songwriter.

No matter what happens over the next few years, I can promise you that our poetic interests are still going to be soundtracked by inventive artists like Billy Gilman who know how to capture a mood and create one as well. Even if Americana isn’t your favorite style of music, I encourage you to give “Delta Queen” a chance if you’re looking for a smart new song to share with someone close to you in your life. It’s just the spark of fervor that 2023 has been calling for, and if you’re among those who have been increasingly disheartened with the level of plasticity coming down the chain from the higher-ups in Nashville, a look at what this bluegrass sensation is doing might be just the kick you need to end 2023 on a high note.

“Delta Queen” pays homage to the foundations of what makes this genre so enticing even after years of limited aesthetical development and self-imposed isolation, both of which are factors key to understanding why it has remained one of America’s best-kept musical secrets.

Mindy McCall



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