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Delta Spirit keeps in touch with their musical roots

They were buskers first, then road dogs.

While en route from Missouri to Wisconsin, singer Matt Vasquez says how his band Delta Spirit has been on the road more often than not over the past two years. There are more fans at more gigs, but they are still playing clubs for a few hundred people per night.

“There are some places it seems we’ve played 29 or 30 times,” says Vasquez, who will appear with Delta Spirit at Brillobox in Lawrenceville on Tuesday. “We’re just earning it one day at time, moment by moment.”

Which is far different situation than playing for spare change in middle school, which is what Vasquez did growing up in Texas. Or playing in the wee hours of the morning at a trolley station in San Diego, where Vasquez met bassist Jon Jameson, drummer Brandon Young and former member Scott Walker. (Kelly Winrich, who plays multiple instruments, is the fourth member).

“It’s a good way to get attention and learn how to get reactions from people,” Vasquez says. “And it’s fun. You learn, even if people aren’t listening, and you don’t get beat up over it. There are a lot of different ways people hear music. Some people hear lyrics, some people just want to hear a pretty melody. You learn all those things.”

Musically, the band has risen from that humble beginning to become well-versed in both history and genres.

Two albums — 2007’s “Ode to Sunshine” and this year’s “History From Below” — showcase Delta Spirit’s ability to synthesize roots, rock, folk, blues and soul. The music sounds familiar, but the San Diego-based quartet manages to put its own spin on songs that have a rare heft and gravitas.

“It’s not rocket science,” Vasquez says. “We always start with a groove, a melody and try to keep it as a platform to tell a story or not tell a story. That’s my favorite thing about music. That’s really it. And having that doesn’t make our music timeless. Everything, every folk music, has that.”

But few bands, young or old, have material as strong as the songs on “History From Below.” There are tunes about relationships, about how travel can spur maturity. There is “Ballad for Vitaly,” based on the true story of a Russian man who lost his family in an airplane crash, then murdered a Swiss air traffic controller directing the flight, and “Vivian,” a haunting song about Vasquez’s late grandmother.

Songwriting, Vasquez says, is matter recognizing “with your own two eyes and your own perspective on truth in your life how that relates to everything, and dealing with that and growing up. You’re always continuing to realize that your ideals and your idealism is off, and you’re always correcting that. It’s kind of a cycle of that.”

Additional Information:

Delta Spirit

With: Darker My Love, The Fling

When: 9:30 p.m. Tuesday

Admission: $16

Where: Brillobox, Lawrenceville

Details: 412-621-4900 or www.brillobox.net


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