Mainely Brews in Waterville will host Boston-based Erin Harpe & The Delta Swingers on Friday, April 17. If the name Erin Harpe strikes a familiar note, it’s because she also fronts an electro/dance/rock band known as Lovewhip, so I was curious to learn more about what she’s doing in The Delta Swingers, a blues band. To that end, she called me from the road to chat about both sides of her musical life as a touring musician. She’s joined by Jim Countryman (bass), Bob Nisi (drums and backing vocals) and Sonny Jim Clifford (slide guitar and harmonica).

Q: As Lovewhip you’ve played at Mainely Brews, have you ever performed there with this new band?

Harpe: No, this will be the first time as The Delta Swingers — and, yeah, Lovewhip has been there plenty of times.

Q: When did your “Lovewhip Blues” CD come out?

Harpe: It came out this past November but we’re still actually promoting it through this summer. Every show we do is an album-release show including a big tour we’re doing this summer all the way out to Utah and Idaho and Texas and Chicago, it’s a real nice tour.

Q: Do you get more action with Lovewhip or The Delta Swingers, or is it pretty equal?

Harpe: Well, the thing about Lovewhip is there’s not even exactly a genre for the band. We’re sort of rock, we’re sort of jam, we’re sort of a mix of a lot of different things, electronic, dance and world music. So it’s always been hard for Lovewhip to find its niche, but audiences always love Lovewhip.

Q: How did The Delta Swingers come to be?

Harpe: Well, six or seven years ago we took Lovewhip down to South-by-Southwest in Austin, then somebody down there contacted me about my blues background — I’d been doing acoustic blues since I was a teenager. So we ended up having more gigs for me to do the blues when we were down there than for Lovewhip. That started me thinking that we should do something with the blues. So me and my husband, Jim — who is bass player in the band — decided to start a band based around the Delta blues just because we had such an easy time making contacts around the blues. So every year we’d go back to Texas for SXSW and people told us that we should be going to Memphis because that was really where the blues scene is. Well, we won the Boston Blues Challenge our first year as a band and went to Memphis for International Blues Challenge and made it to the semifinals, that was in 2013. Doing that is something, as a blues band, that will help people get to know who you are and what you’re doing. And we are not doing what most people are doing in the blues — we’re doing something that’s a little different. Taking the Delta blues and mixing in our mix of other styles influenced by Lovewhip, we call it Charles River Delta Blues.

Q: Having listened to your debut album, I can say it definitely has a flavor all its own.

Harpe: Thanks, and on that album we did four original songs, covered “Angel From Montgomery” and the other five are old Delta blues songs from the 1930s.

Q: I believe this is my first taste of Delta blues, it’s much more up-beat than …

Harpe: Chicago blues?

Q: Bingo!

Harpe: Yeah, exactly. You won’t find anyone crying in the corners, the dance floor is going to be packed.

Q: Of the two bands, do you favor one over the other?

Harpe: I don’t think so, no. But there are things about the bands that I like more.

Q: For example?

Harpe: Well, like with Lovewhip we kind of get all dressed up and bring a little bit of fantasy for people. I get to wear a wig and my guitar playing is more over the top with a lot more soloing. Lovewhip is really one side of me where I get to express certain things, but with the Delta Swingers it’s kind of an older crowd usually. They love to dance, so that’s like Lovewhip but they’re blues fans. For me, though, I grew up playing Delta blues — my father taught me how to play it — and so it’s natural for me to sing the blues. So, yeah, it’s like having two very different children, and Lovewhip is the older one because we started that in 2000 when out first album came out. In fact, we thought we’d give up doing that band right when we started doing the Delta Swingers but the fans revolted and then wouldn’t let us quit, so that was nice.

Q: This way there’s no chance of you getting bored, you can just switch between the electronic dance rock and the roots-y danceable Delta blues. In fact, I think I just came up with the title to this column because in this case, Erin, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

Harpe: Exactly, and it just so happens that for this tour we’re doing the same band members in both bands right now. So we’ll play Lovewhip in Idaho and we’re going to do both bands in Chicago. It’s going to be really interesting.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the readers of this article?

Harpe: I would tell people that whether they like blues, they like just to dance or if they like Lovewhip they’re going to love the Delta Swingers show, too, because it’s upbeat and danceable. It’s really a fun time, whether they like roots music or whether they like dance music. (www.erinharpe.com)

Lucky Clark has spent more than 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.


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