“Born in Oakland” Reviews 7/23/2017 – 9/18/2017
by on September 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

There is a great crisp upbeat blues sound emanating out of Oakland, California in the music of the Delta Wires!  A seven piece band with a 30 year vintage, the Delta Wires seventh album, Born in Oakland, is a magical mix of the West Coast blues that is fresh and relevant.  I couldn’t help envisioning Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi and the Blues Brothers just hollerin’ and cheerin’ as I listened to the new CD.  Their “mission from God to spread the blues” definitely reached the off ramps from I-580 to the bright side of the bay!! Band leader and on lead vocals and harmonica, Ernie Pinata started the band as a college project back in the day and the Delta Wires have matured into an exciting and original purveyor of the modern blues.

I absolutely love the song Vacation on the CD. It is the perfect tune released at the perfect time for me….and I bet for YOU!  Tom Gerrits (bass) and Tony Huszar (drums) lay down a steady rockin blues beat, Richard Healey rips it up on guitar, and the horn section consisting of Gerry Jonutz, David Bowman, and John Christensen give the song some unique spice that I think makes it a sure fired hit!  Wanna feel good, different, get outside, or get on the road to somewhere new…..just play this tune and the bags will almost pack themselves!

The album also features a great funky blues instrumental number, In the Middle, that showcases the talents of the horn section. Sunny Day and Fun Time are great little hip swayin’ chillin’ blues tunes, Your Eyes is some fine badass blues, and Devil’s In My Headset features some guitar licks and a sax solo I really enjoyed.

Kudos to acclaimed master engineer Bob Olhsson for marshaling the talents of the Delta Wires and transforming them into a powerful set of ten original cutting edge modern blues tunes!  This is the defining sound and album of the blues for the summer of 2017!
-Ben Vee Blues, https://benveeblues.com/


The Delta Wires have been thrilling fans for more than 30 years with their own brand of horn- and harmonica-driven West Coast blues, and this album finds them at the top of their game as they deliver a collection of seven thoroughly modern originals and three covers…

Known for their tight, energetic arrangements and versatile sound, the unit are 2008 International Blues Challenge finalists and might remind some folks of their Bay Area predecessors or hint of ’60s powerhouse Blood, Sweat & Tears, but they’re decidedly original.

Led by Pinata on harp and vocals, the lineup includes childhood friend Tom Gerrits on bass and backing vocals, percussionist Tony Huszar, a bandmate for 17 years, and Richard Healy, who joined full-time on guitar three years later. The horn section features Gerry Jonutz, a founding member of the band Cold Blood, on saxes, David Bowman, a former member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, on trombone and John Christensen, a music educator who’s recorded with Kenny G., on trumpet.

The horn section kicks off the original “Sunny Day,” which settles down quickly as Pinata sings praise to the easy-living lifestyle of summer in which you can hang out free of worry in your backyard all day. His tenor vocals are silky smooth. A cover of Billy “The Kid” Emerson’s “Fine And Healthy Thing” is up next with a smooth arrangement that would put a smile on the originator’s face. It’s amplified by a tasty, but brief, mid-tune harp solo as the horns swing throughout.

A rapid-fire guitar run kicks off “Vacation,” an uptempo complaint about having to deal with rush-hour traffic that adds to the drain of working a day job and realizing that the city is so expensive, it’s impossible to live within one’s means. The action tames for the jazzy “Your Eyes,” with Gerrits featured as Pinata delivers a love song that deals with feelings of separation after being away from the lady for just a few days. The tune gives Christensen and Bowman space to stretch out.

“Days Of The Week” — a steady-tempo walking blues — and “Devil’s In My Headset” keep the message going forward. Another original, “Fun Time,” follows before a pair of covers: “I Don’t Care” and “In The Middle,” the latter an instrumental written by horn master Pee Wee Ellis. Another syncopated original, “All I Have To Give,” revisits the love theme described above and brings the CD to a close.

Funded through a Kickstarter program and available from CDBaby, iTunes and Amazon, Born In Oakland is welcome addition to your collection if, like me, you love the big sound of a horn band that possesses major skills.

(Reviewer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. His first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.)
-Marty Gunther, Blues Blast Magazine


 Delta Wires may have been Born In Oakland (Mudslide Records) but its sound is comprised of the Mississippi and Chicago strains of the blues. This smokin’ seven-piece, on its seventh CD in 30 years, plays the hell out of 10 highly-charged originals led by the lead vocals of harmonica man and co-producer Ernie Pinata, backed by bass, guitar, drums, congas, tambourine, saxophones, trombone and trumpet. It’s a party, and if the “Devil’s In My Headset,” it’s still “Fun Time” because “I Don’t Care” on this “Sunny Day.” It’s a “Fine and Healthy Thing” anyway when you’re on “Vacation” for all of the “Days Of The Week.” Those are my highlights. I would love to see them rock out live with this material.
-Mike Greenblatt, Rant ‘n Roll, Aquarian Weekly

Delta Wires: Born In Oakland, Mud Slide Records. This seven-piece crew has been tearing up the West Coast blues scene for over 30 years. On this, their seventh disc, they showcase a number of original cuts and covers that take advantage of the horn-heavy, harmonica fueled line-up. “Fine and Healthy Thing” channels the Blues Brother’s classic take on “I Don’t Know” while “Vacation” recalls vintage Huey Lewis &the News with a charging harmonica lead and ruminations on escaping the daily grind and traffic jams to enjoy some well-deserved time off. The band shifts gears for a slow blues on “Your Eyes” where vocalist Ernie Pinata’s world weary vocals are accented by a dose of mournful trombone. The same low-key approach drives “Devil’s In My Headset” until some inspired saxophone and guitar soloing lifts the energy a couple of notches. Elsewhere, on “Fun Time” and “Days of the Week,” the groove is considerably more upbeat with a midsong guitar solo on the later cut celebrating good times with a new lady. “In the Middle” and “I Don’t Care “ put the horn section closer to the center of the action than many of the cuts with the trumpet, saxophone and trombone roaring in unison on the later cut and the rest of the band laying down some hard edgedfunk underneath punchy trumpet and sax solos on “In the Middle.” With a sound that leans closer to the funk of Tower of Power than the more traditional blues of Roomful of Blues this disc will nevertheless appeal to fans of horn driven blues. -Mark Smith, Jazz and Blues Report

The Bay Area band Delta Wires began over 30 years ago as a college project from bandleader Ernie Pinata.  His intention was to demonstrate the evolution of the blues from its Mississippi Delta beginnings to the electric blues of Chicago and, eventually, the West Coast, with the band playing examples of the evolution.  If the project didn’t earn Pinata an “A” at the time, the band itself has surely earned one over their four decades of hard work playing the clubs of Oakland and San Francisco and opening for such blues legends as Lowell Fulson, Freddie King, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, and countless others.

Born in Oakland (Mudslide Records) is the Delta Wires’ seventh release and it finds the band (Pinata – lead vocals/harmonica, Tom Gerrits – bass/vocals, Richard Healy – guitar, Tony Huszar – drums/congas/tambourine, Gerry Jonutz – tenor/alto/bari sax, David Bowman – trombone, John Christensen – trumpet) in great form.  The jazzy pop-flavored opener “Sunny Days” will probably put a smile on the faces of music fans who dig those classic 70’s Tower of Power or Chicago tunes, as will “Fun Time.”  However, blues fans will definitely dig the swinging read on Billy “The Kid” Emerson’s “Fine and Healthy Thing” that follows, or the blues rocker “Vacation.”

The smoky blues ballad “Your Eyes” slows the tempo a bit, with a nice vocal from Pinata, and “Devil’s In My Headset” is an interesting take on a very different type of love song.   The hard-charging “I Don’t Care” finds the horns really cranking up in support to Pinata’s fevered vocal, while “Days of the Week” and “All I Have To Give” revisit the jazzy side of the band’s sound.  There’s also an excellent take on Pee Wee Ellis’ “In The Middle,” a funky instrumental that gives the band, especially the horns, plenty of space in the spotlight.

Delta Wires’ brand of blues, on full display with Born in Oakland, will appeal not only to blues fans, but also soul, jazz, and R&B fans.  They certainly get an “A” for effort. – Graham Clarke, Phoenix Blues Society

Delta Wires Captures the Sound of Blues Music’s Migration

In 2008, Express readers named Delta Wires, Oakland’s premier blues outfit, the East Bay’s Best Live Band. Since then, the seven-man band, known for its blazing horn charts, has continued burning up stages, locally and internationally. Not too band for a band that was put together as a one-off project by Ernie Pinata, the band’s singer, harmonica player, and frontman.

Born and raised in Oakland, Pinata picked up the harmonica when he was 16 and taught himself to play by listening to records by Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, and other urban blues greats. Although he played regularly in coffee shops, and once sat in with blues great Freddie King in Berkeley, Pinata wasn’t thinking about becoming a full-time musician. In 1970, he was working toward a master’s degree in fine arts, studying poetry and sociology at Oakland’s California College of Arts and Crafts, when he got interested in the mass migration of African-American workers during World War II. The sharecroppers who moved from Mississippi to work in Memphis, Chicago, and Oakland brought the blues with them and changed the history of popular American music.

Instead of writing a sociology paper on the subject, Pinata put together the first incarnation of Delta Wires to illustrate the evolution of the music, from its acoustic roots to the electric styles that were born in Chicago and Oakland. “We did a cappella field hollers, Robert Johnson and Son House songs, using acoustic guitars, fiddle, and harp and Chicago-style electric blues with a sax player, trying to copy Muddy Waters and the other Chess Records guys as close as we could.”

The presentation was a success, so Pinata booked a few dates at Oakland clubs, still thinking of the band as a fun, temporary project. “People started sitting in with us and things took off. We turned pro in 1971 and, after we got a standing ovation opening for Van Morrison in 1972, we knew we were on the right path. We’ve been going strong ever since.”

On Born in Oakland, their recently released album, they continue to impress as they burn through a collection of 10 tunes, seven of them composed by the band. The record is a culmination of the hard work they’ve put into their music since 1970. It’s getting airplay all over the country and generating rave reviews in publications like Chicago’s Midwest Record and the Lee County Courier in Tupelo, Mississippi.

“It took a couple of years to create this album,” said Pinata. “The songwriting was a totally collaborative process, with everyone in the band contributing to the writing and arranging.” Pinata said someone will suggest a horn line or contribute a guitar lick and the rest of the band will run with it, adding and subtracting parts until everything comes together. “This time we decided to throw out the rule book and let the music take over,” Pinata told the Express. “When Richard [Healy, the band’s guitar player] came up with the slow, bluesy hook for ‘Your Eyes,’ he said it didn’t sound like Delta Wires. I told him it was good to try something that was a little different. We just went with the flow.”

The response the band got from their fans when they started playing their new tunes was overwhelmingly positive. “We always play ‘em out before we go into the studio to make an album,” Pinata explained. “When you have a seven-piece band, with three horn players, you can’t record a song if it doesn’t have any history.”

On Born in Oakland, Delta Wires cover a lot of musical territory. With its greasy horn line and drummer Tony Huszar’s hard funk backbeat, “Sunny Day” tips its hat to Tower of Power, Oakland’s premier horn-driven R&B band during the early ’70s. “Devil’s in My Headset” rides a slow, Memphis soul groove and features a smoking solo by sax player Gerry Jonutz, complementing Pinata’s extended foray on harmonica. “Fun Time” is a fast jump blues; “Fine and Healthy Thing” dips into the swinging sound of West Coast blues, with a skewed shuffle rhythm and the horns front and center, while Healy’s layered guitars on “Vacation” suggest the Allman Brothers taking a holiday in Mississippi.

Pinata, bass player Tom Gerrits, and Huszar produced the album, with the rest of the band contributing ideas and arrangements. “When everybody has a say in the process, you make better music. We cut the basic tracks in seven days, then I went in and knocked out the vocals in four hours, a lot of them first takes. We all gave it everything we had, and it shows.”

Born in Oakland, the band’s seventh album, features mostly original songs. “Everything is still blues-based, but it’s more modern and adventurous than anything we’ve ever done before,” Pinata said. “When we play The Uptown, we’ll be doing all the songs on the album and creating a positive atmosphere. It’s a hometown gig and we’re gonna kick ass.”

Delta Wires’ Oakland CD release party will be held on Saturday, Sept. 9, at The Uptown, 1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 8:30 p.m., $20, $25. UptownNightclub.com
-J. Poet, East Bay Express

 Bay Area blues-rock band Delta Wires is back with their seventh album and this one is brimming with fire, funk and fun. “Vacation” is a rousing rocker. The mood goes quieter and more introspective on the effective “Devil’s in My Headset.” The energy level soars up again on the carefree “I Don’t Care.” The closer, “All I Have to Give” is another strong song. The whole band is tight and talented. Lead vocalist/harmonica player Ernie Pinata and guitarist Richard Healy particularly shine. The band did, indeed, originate in Oakland. That was 30 years ago. Having been inducted into the California Blues Hall of Fame, Delta Wires continues to make music that will grab you and hold you
-Paul Freeman, DEJA RE-VU, Pop Culture Classics’ Recommended CDs, DVDs and Books 
A new band to B&R Delta Wires is a seven-piece, west coast outfit, led by singer and harp player Ernie Pinata, with three horn players, an electric guitarist, a bass player, and a percussionist. The band have been playing in Oakland for over thirty years now, and this is their seventh album. The ten tracks are all original numbers.

This is an enjoyable, modern, horn driven album that stays well clear of blues rock and it is refreshing to hear some good music where for the most part the guitar is relegated to playing rhythm. For some blues purists, this CD may be too far into contemporary adult orientated rock, but what makes it appealing is Pinata’s definite blues influences and the dominance of the horns backed by a tight rhythm unit.

The opening song is upbeat with infectious brass riffs and funky guitar that sets the tone for most of the album. ‘Vacation’, has some topical lyrics about the tiring and stressful drudgery of commuting to work: I would imagine that for those of us who are still labouring in the vineyard and have not yet retired, we can certainly identify with the need to have a holiday. ‘Fun Time’ is a good, simple, but well-crafted song and ‘In The Middle’, is a funky instrumental with a captivating groove that allows each horn player to play a solo that is followed by Pinata on harp, …he can certainly lay down some impressive blues licks. The closing ‘All I Have To Give’ is a rousing, satisfying number, and this is one of the best albums that I have heard for a while. A definitive thumbs up from me.
-Paul Mooney BLUES & RHYTHM – SEPTEMBER, 2017

Delta Wires’ seventh album is yet another demonstration of their mastery of the current day West Coast blues sounds permeated with a respect for traditional Delta blues.

The band, led by vocalist and harmonica player Ernie Pinata, is fuelled by a unique marriage of harp underpinned by a vibrant horn section that provides the perfect background for Pinata’s expressive blues vocals.

The band open with ‘Sunny Day’, a horn fuelled slab of R&B with a distinctive funky Latino feel that gives full range to Pinata’s soul-infused vocals. Billy Emerson’s ‘Fine and Healthy Thing’ is given a big band feel, Pinata’s booming vocals and heavy harp perfectly complemented by the “fat” horn sounds that fire this number. ‘Vacation’, with it’s frantic jump rhythms and wild harp has a distinctive Conjunto feel – ‘Devil’s In My Headset’ is a brooding blues replete with baying horns and wailing slide – Professor Longhair’s ‘I Don’t Care’ is a funky Crescent city stomper fuelled by hard riffing horns and growled vocals – whilst the instrumental ‘In the Middle stays in that N’awlins’ groove as it conjures up a funky, jazz-inflected, brass band mood enhanced by wild full-toned harp.

Delta Wires are a talented blues band who appear to be destined for great things on the global blues scene. -Mick Rainsford BLUES IN BRITAIN

Delta Wires – Born in Oakland – (Mudslide)
This big seven-piece band has been honing their chops for some 30-odd years, so everything here is note perfect, and on opening cut “Sunny Day” singer (and harp player) Ernie Pinata’s vocals and the band’s backing groove perfectly channel the buzz of a bright and carefree day. “Vacation” has a different vibe; it’s not about being on vacation but rather needing one, with Pinata’s harmonica, Richard Healy’s guitar picking and the band’s three-man horn section stressing the point. Other highlights include the yearning “Your Eyes” and “Devil’s in My Headset” but the bouncy “Fun Time” probably sums up this album the best, both musically and in title.
http://www.antimusic.com, Get the Blues with Kevin Wierzbieki

The Bay Area team Delta Wires has been playing the blues for over 30 years, and they sound as fresh as ever on this upbeat session. Ernie  Pinata/voc-harp, Tom Gerrits/b-voc, Richard Healy/g, Tony Huszar/dr, Gery Jonutz/sax, David Bowman/tb and John Christensen/tp sound earnest and snappy on “Sunny Day” with Pinata’s rich and leathered voice searing through the smoky  horns. The rhythm section creates danceable backbeats on “Fine and Healthy Ting” and “Devil’s In My Headset” and you feel like you’re in a swampy Memphis dive with the horns on “Fun Time” and “Vacation.” Healy’s guitar sizzles on “Days of the Week” and they have a real live sound throughout, particularly on the open armed “All I Have To Give.” Vintage sounds.
-George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly, August 21, 2017

Delta Wires-Born in Oakland-Right out of the speakers blasts Sunny Day a funky riff with an almost BS&T horn chart, just killer. Sure this band started 30 years but just listen to Vacation a jumpin’ Huey Lewis and the News vibe and Devil’s In My Headset which reminds me of Al Kooper’s early solo stuff.

This band has groove and feel.

Sure, you can call this West Coast Blues but as the song says “good songs to sing about the feeling love can bring”..Delta Wires are bringing it, on this their 7 th album. -John Emms Music Reviews, https://johnemmsreviews.com

Delta Wires keeps the spirit of the blues alive with their seventh album, Born in Oakland, a nod to the birthplace of the seven-piece band. The group’s musical execution is first-rate, giving each band \member a turn in the spotlight.

The mid-tempo “Sunny Day” begins the album with an easygoing summer song. “Summer rain washes my cares away,” sings lead vocalist Ernie Pinata.“Fine and Healthy Thing” kicks things up a notch, thanks to a swinging arrangement by the band’s three-man horn section. The energetic “Fun Time” and “I Don’t Care” are geared to get isteners out on the dance floor, while “Vacation” features some fine interplay between the horns and the slinky guitar work of Richard Healy. The ballad “Your Eyes” is a successful venture into jazz/rhythm-and-blues territory. “In The Middle,” the longest track, is the CD’s sole instrumental and provides a showcase for Pinata’s harmonica stylings and the horn work of saxophonist Gerry Jonutz, trombonist David Bowman and trumpeter John Christensen. (10 songs, 41 minutes) -Tom Wilk, Icon Magazine



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