Sun King Rising's debut album, Delta Tales, will be released this Fall on CD, vinyl, and leading download and streaming sites. Sun King Rising is the professional moniker of singer/songwriter/piano player John Blangero who hails from Port Isabel, Texas. PeacockSunrise Records is the Americana/Rock label spinoff of Nick Katona’s successful Progressive Rock label, Melodic Revolution. The album is produced by New York-based producer, Steven “Ace” Acker.
“Blangero is steeped in the traditions of southern rock and country soul,” said Katona. “His primary influences on this record are the arrangements, vocal stylings, and big band vibe of Leon Russell and Joe Cocker. We are excited to have him as an artist.”
Blangero’s songs are filled with memorable hooks, rocking piano, driving rhythms, a powerful horn section, and soulful female background singers a la’ Ray Charles’ Raelettes.
“I’ve been wanting to do a solo Americana/southern soul/classic rock type of album for many years,” Blangero said. “I love the music of Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Dan Penn, and others and I wanted to capture some of that vibe in my own writing. So, I started writing and recording solo demos of songs like Let There Be Light, Down the Delta Road, Drive Me to Nashville, In A State of Grace, and Love Turns Grey.
“After hearing these demos on my ReverbNation channel, Nick contacted me,” Blangero recalled. “He told me ‘OMG, you have got to release these songs on my label.
“Melodic Revolution is a successful Prog Rock label, but to accommodate my style of music he launched a new imprint, which he called PeacockSunrise. I felt that Nick had the experience and knowledge to take Delta Tales to market successfully, so I signed with the label.”
Acker was the co-founder and guitarist of 1970’s MCA recording artists, LAW. He has since served as producer for various artists and projects in New York, Pittsburgh, Ohio, Nashville, and Jackson, MS and has been affiliated with SST Studios in Weehawken, NJ since 2007. “I’ve been a fan of Ace’s work since his early days with LAW,” Blangero said. “I felt he was a perfect choice for this project.”
The recording of Delta Tales was a fascinating task, spanning four months, from January 2020 to mid-May. The Coronavirus shutdown in April forced Blangero and Acker to complete the production remotely with players and singers recording in several different studios across the country rather than recording additional live, full-band studio sessions.
Said Blangero, “It was a logistical challenge, but Ace did a great job organizing the players and the sessions. I am proud of this record. We captured the magic that I’ve always heard in my head with great background singers, classic horn parts, tight rhythm sections, killer guitar, funky keys, and my own acoustic piano parts. It sounds like it could have been recorded in the early 70s, which is the vibe I was going for.”
In addition to his work as recording artist, Blangero is also an internationally renowned genetic scientist at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, for whom he continued to work while recording Delta Tales. You might aptly call his music, then, “The Genetics of Soul.”
Blangero’s prodigious gifts revealed themselves when he started taking piano lessons at the age five in his hometown of New Castle, Pennsylvania. Five years later, he had absorbed not only the fundamentals of classical music, but also gospel and rock music. He joined his first rock band at 14 and was soon composing and singing his own music.
Apprenticeships in a series of area bands culminated in the formation of his own original band, called Harlequin. By then his music had evolved into a combination of prog rock and glam, presented with all the theatrics such music generally entails. Harlequin retained regional popularity throughout the fertile Pennsylvania/Ohio/West Virginia market.
At the height of the band’s popularity, though, he gave up music to obtain his Ph.D. in biomedical research. During his twenty-year hiatus from music, he ascended to rock star stature in the international scientific community. But the musical beast within him could not be stilled forever. Playing casually with blues bands in San Antonio revived that beast and rekindled Blangero’s creative spark.
In closing, Blangero said, “I tried to capture my southern soul on this album. I hope that the overall message it conveys is one of positivity, especially in these dark times. I think we have put together strong songs that will make people tap their feet and sing along, too! For me, the song is everything.”