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Delta Rae bring Fleetwood Mac's sound back to life

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It makes perfect sense that the special guest on Delta Rae's "If I Loved You" just happens to be one Mr. Lindsey Buckingham, of Fleetwood Mac renown. The North Carolina combo's rousing handclap-enhanced single continues an effortless melding of folk, country, blues and sugar-hooked pop styles that's been earning comparisons to the '70s hitmakers since 2012's Carry the Fire debut.

Those similarities also extend to Delta Rae's boy/girl makeup; the sextet is anchored by brothers Ian and Eric Holljes, and fronted by two powerhouse belters, kid sister Brittany and longtime chum Elizabeth Hopkins. Nor does it hurt that Delta Rae was also known for its slinky concert cover of Fleetwood Mac's classic "The Chain."

But don't listen for a Southern drawl in Brittany Holljes' speaking voice. She lost it years ago, she says, back when the family relocated from its native Durham to the Bay Area, where her father worked for several toy companies before eventually launching his own.

"He invented a toy that became one of Fisher-Price's best-selling toys in the history of the company," says the proud daughter. "It's called the Smart Cycle, and it's a stationary tricycle that plugs into your TV and opens up a whole world of learning.

"So growing up, we all felt like we were part of this magical family, and our parents were sure to imbue us with that sense."

Dad also gave Brittany her first professional vocal experience. "I did voiceovers for one of his first toys, a teddy bear with an LED face — kind of a hybrid of a Nanopet and a stuffed animal," she says. "So I was properly messed up by the time I got to U.C. Berkeley."

Brittany followed in her writer mother's footsteps and studied New Age-y subjects like paganism and mythology, with an accent on ancient Mediterranean religion. She also spent time in Italy, focusing on astrology and alchemy.

"So it was inevitable that I would go into music," she explains, "because there was no other profession aside from palm reading that I was prepared for."

Brittany graduated in 2009, the same year her brother Eric got his diploma from Duke. "And at that point, we were all free of our obligations, and that's how we were able to start the band."

After relocating to Durham — Brittany's brothers share an abiding fascination for the old South — the band was discovered by legendary Sire Records honcho Seymour Stein when he accompanied his ailing daughter to the Duke University hospital. It was the doctor himself who insisted he check out budding hometown heroes Delta Rae.

To this day, there's a wispy thread of Stevie Nicks coursing through Brittany. She'll discourse at length on how the Christian patriarchy has historically controlled women.

"We grew up on Greek mythology," she says of her upbringing. "And that became our stories of right and wrong and morality, and it definitely has influenced our songwriting, even down to the name of the band. My mom is currently writing a novel about a girl from the South who awakens the Greek gods, and her name is Delta Rae. So we stole that name from my mom, and we've been proudly called Delta Rae ever since."

scene@csindy.com

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