Clocking in at just 20 minutes, the self-titled debut of Durham's Delta Rae is a folk-inclined power pop EP—sincere, mellow, sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Sibling trio Ian, Eric and Brittany Hölljes and childhood chum Elizabeth Hopkins unite big voices with addictive melodies for mostly charming results. Bouncing between blue-eyed soul, raucous gospel and earnest singer/ songwriter fare, the record's stuffed with spirited piano, dulcet guitar, charging drums and vocal harmonies. Standout tracks "Ooh Caroline" and "In the Morning" deliver on their potential with melodies you'll hum for hours.
If that sounds too easy, it probably is. As promising as the collection is, the flaws are major ones. Eric sings "the Devil's in the details" on opener "Morning Comes," but for Delta Rae, it's not the minutiae that are the hang-up. Rather, it's the overarching theatrics. Most of the songs are hackneyed narratives about old love or economic toil, set to ambitious gospel/ folk-rock arrangements, all sung with strong young voices. Mixed with a penchant for trading lead vocals, the result is a bunch of tunes that could just as easily be confused as the cast recording of some folk-rock musical about a couple of poor Southern kids with troubled hearts and empty pocketbooks. "So young we started in love, too young to start again now," they all howl together on the bridge of "Darlin, If." It feels insincerely sincere, like a cast reading a script that doesn't quite fit.