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Music Interview: Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio
I Told You So

Seattle’s Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio (aka DLO3) claim to specialise in the “lost art of feel-good music”, and, after listening to their latest album, I Told You So, it’s hard to dispute that.

It’s a brilliant collection of uplifting, raw and retro-sounding instrumentals – a heady brew of the organ jazz of Jimmy Smith and Baby Face Willette, the soulful strut of Booker T. & the M.G.’s, some Motown, Stax and blues, the earthy funk of The Meters and the cosmic rock of Jimi Hendrix.

Opener, the irresistibly groovy ‘Hole In One’, sounds like a long-lost floor-filler from a ‘60s mod club; first single, ‘Call Your Mom’, is choppy funk-blues with some seriously tasty guitar licks; ‘Girly Face’ has a more laidback, jazzy, lounge feel, and ‘From The Streets’ is a cinematic piece that could easily soundtrack a cult ‘70s crime film, Blaxploitation flick or spy movie.

There’s even a cover of George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’ thrown in, which transforms the schmaltzy ‘80s pop ballad into an organ-soaked, late-night blues number.

DLO3, which formed in 2015, consists of self-taught organist and multi-instrumentalist Delvon Lamarr, who plays a mean Hammond B-3, guitarist Jimmy James and drummer Dan Weiss, who is also in powerhouse soul and funk collective The Sextones. Weiss is a new, full-time member of DLO3, but the latest album features Grant Schroff on drums.

Signed to hip US soul label Colemine Records, whose impressive roster includes San Francisco’s Monophonics and singer-songwriter Kelly Finnigan, DLO3 have played sold-out shows all over the world and built up a reputation for their incendiary live performances, as well as improvisational skills and imaginative takes on classic tunes, including Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Move On Up’, which features on their 2018 Live at KEXP! recording.

I Told You So is their second studio album. The band’s debut, Close But No Cigar, which was originally released in 2016 – Colemine reissued it in 2018 – included a cover of Dionne Warwick’s ‘Walk On By’, as well as the amusingly-titled ‘Al Greenery.’

Their latest release has an even heavier groove than its predecessor and is arguably a much more confident record.

“Some people have asked me why the album is called I Told You So when there’s no song on it called ‘I Told You So?’” says Lamarr, speaking to me from his home in Seattle.

“The reason is that a lot of people who have been big fans of ours from the start questioned whether our sound would be the same after the departure of our original drummer. He had a pretty distinct, old school way of playing, which was a big part of our sound when we started out. I told them, “It won’t”…

“I’m a believer that no one person makes the sound of a band – it’s a collective of musicians, styles and personalities, and I believe this album is proof of that. At least it is to me.”

SH: What did you want this album to sound like?

DL: I wanted it to sound like it does. Some people want their albums to sound clean, polished and free from mistakes. Not me. I’m not into that so much. I like it raw and dirty.

I leave in some of the mistakes: talking, noise in the background, etc. To me that’s what makes music real. I like the live-sounding recordings. It feels different to me ‘cos it feels like they mean it. And that’s the sound for me.

Who or what were your main influences for the sound and feel of this record?

There’s a lot to that question. I guess I could say everything. We have songs inspired by artists like the Ohio Players, Willie Mitchell, The Roots, Stax, Motown, etc. Then we’ve got songs inspired by our daily lives, like walking down the street and hearing all the different sounds all at the same time, or dealing with friends or family dramas, which can produce amazing music. Some people just can’t or don’t hear all that noise around them, but I do.

How were the recording sessions? What can you tell us about how the album was made? 

Our sessions are super-chilled. We’re on the road so much that we write our tunes during sound checks, and, depending how it goes, we’ll try to play them at the end of the night. What is music without taking some chances?

Most of the tracks on I Told You So weren’t even complete songs when we got to the studio. Being that we all live in different cities and states, it’s hard for us to get together and rehearse, but when the opportunity arises for us to do so, we get a lot done in a very short amount of time.

Prior to recording the album, we were on a tour of the US, Canada and Europe for a little over two months. A lot of this album, and then some, was written during those sound checks, but they were just one-chord grooves when we got home. We had three days from the end of the tour until the recording session, so we had to finish most of the tunes right before recording them.

Was the album recorded live? 

We recorded everything in the same room, close together with no headphones. Everything on it was played straight through – mistakes, noise and all. There’s no separation of our instruments whatsoever. It’s just how we do our live shows. I love that sound.

Where did you make the album?

It was recorded in Seattle, at Blue Mallard Studios, with owner/engineer Jason Gray, who is also the bass player of the band Polyrhythmics. He knows exactly how to capture the feeling and vibe that I love.

Also during the studio session a guitarist friend of ours, Ben Bloom of Polyrhythmics, just happened to stop by, so I asked him if he had his guitar with him and he did. So I said, “grab it!” He had to be somewhere in 15 minutes, so I said, “let’s see what happens”.

The song he played on is called ‘Right Place’, ‘Right Time’, and we literally wrote and recorded it in less than 15 minutes. It was just a bassline groove and it had no melody, no bridge, and no parts, but it turned out fantastic. Ben’s solo on that tune is nothing short of amazing.

What kind of gear did you use on the album?

I don’t know a whole lot about the studio gear used for the sessions, but do I know a couple of things: Jason used an old CBS Laboratories 411 Volumax audio limiter, a couple of Chandler compressors and some other vintage and modern gear.

He also used an audio interface that I had personally never heard of. It was a Metric Halo. I’m not sure of the model but it sounds great.

I used my 1971 Hammond B3 with a Leslie 21H, Jimmy James used his 1964 Silverstone guitar with a 1×15 old Peavey Delta Blues amp, and Grant Schroff used a bunch of vintage and modern drums pieced together.

Every drum Grant used was from a different manufacturer. He had about three-plus drum kits to choose from, so we went through each drum and found the best sounding ones then got to work.

What prompted the cover version of George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper?’ It sticks out on the album… 

We were doing a show in Seattle at the start of the band and Jimmy, in-between songs, kind of quoted a piece of ‘Careless Whisper.’ I’ve never played that song before, but I just went for it, slashing and hacking my way through it.

It started out as a little snippet that we just threw in every now and then, but then the crowds went nuts every time we played it, so eventually we decided to do the full song. At the request of my wife, and manager, Amy Novo, we recorded it. It’s her number one requested song.

Some of the album has a cinematic feel. Would you like to write a film soundtrack and, if so, what kind of movie would appeal to you?

I’d love to write a score for an old school, Blaxploitation-style flick, like Across 110th Street, Black Caesar or Foxy Brown – car chases, police sirens and ‘70s hustling. That would be dope!

I grew up watching those movies. Again it goes back to the music being raw and dirty.

Are you hoping to play live again when things get back to normal? 

Absolutely! As soon as they say the word we’re running to the stage. We plan to continue where we left off and do all the US and European shows we had planned on doing in 2020.

We also want to some countries we’ve never been to. I miss the stage a lot. I hope to be back on the road in 2021, playing music and possibly bringing some joy back to the lives of people. We all need that, including myself, and I want to do the best I can to make people find peace in their lives.

Last year was very productive for me, apart from taking a financial hit for not being able to tour, but I’m getting by for now.

Since March 2020, I’ve written and recorded roughly 70 new songs in a few different genres.

I’ve also been working with Novo Productions, which is owned by my wife, on a recording project called DLO3 and Friends. It’s going to be based on the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, but we will collaborate with artists from around the world, as well as recording albums as a trio.

What are your fears for the future?

Not being able to go back to work and losing everything we’ve been striving for all our lives.

We can only hang in there for so long before everything comes to a complete halt. And if it gets to that point can we pick up from where we left off or do we have to start all over? Only time can answer that one.


Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio’s I Told You So is out now on Colemine Records. It’s available on pink or black vinyl, cassette and CD, as well as across digital/streaming platformswww.delvonlamarrorgantrio.com

Main Image by Frances Willey


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