Delta Rae, Nicki Bluhm Shine at Hangout Music Festival
Delta Rae

Delta Rae

GULF SHORES, Ala. — Delta Rae and Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers fall at separate ends of the Americana spectrum, yet they both brought a pretty cool energy to the Hangout Music Festival on Saturday afternoon (May 18).

Delta Rae opened the day with a swift kick in the pants — or the bikini bottom, as the case may be. They are not afraid to crank it up with banging drums and huge vocals, but just as easily, they can scale it way back to a heartbreak song about regrets and elusive emotions. The band also unveiled a brand new song that had a whistling, spaghetti-Western feel to it. I didn’t catch the title, but I did note the dramatic lyrics about chasing twisters in the canyons.

The North Carolina-based band has been fortunate to appear on countless festivals by now, from the Americana Music Conference to South by Southwest to MerleFest. Their music draws on a broad range of styles, from indie rock to folk, and their fans love them for it.

  Meanwhile, Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers hit the groove pretty quickly and stuck with it. Their laid-back demeanor is ideal for a leisurely day at the beach, even if this band is based on the other coast — that being California. Still, the sunny vibe in their music is infectious and an easy listen.

One of the main reasons I like it is because Bluhm is not an overpowering presence in the band. Rather, her warm voice is more like an instrument that weaves in and out of the arrangement, instead of taking charge of it. The band has a distinct sound and feel, which is enhanced (rather than molded) by her vocals. She’s a true singer, too, easily moving from melody to harmony, knowing when to sing quietly for effect and when to belt it out.

Her influences became apparent with a striking cover of Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good.” Turns out, you can’t say the same about this band — they’re quite good, especially when a bright and sunny day is just getting started.