There are comparisons here, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Its sort of like comparing you to a cousin. Maybe there is a family resemblance, but there the similarities end. So I won’t make them here, as much as I might wish so say that I hear this influence or that influence. It feels a little lazy to me as a writer, and unfair to listeners. It’s sort of like saying, you can run the race, or just climb that fence over there and sneak across the finish line. The journey, to tease a cliché, is what it’s all about, right?
I came to this band roughly a year or so ago with their 2009 album, Sao Paulo, a collection of roots tinged heartfelt pieces effused with ample blues and country flavors. Led by guitarist/vocalist Kurt Marschke, the band does evoke a number of classic influences. I’ll let you be the judge. But then contemporary American music has always relied on inspiration and influences, and great bands also inspire and influence. Deadstring Brothers is just such a band. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_s_bL7WqFSI
Cannery Row is Dead String’s latest offering. There is an intimacy and gentleness to this collection, but it is hardly a push-over, evident in the bluesy hymnal opening title song. While there are no grinding, driving guitar pieces, the songs carry a confidence and power all their own, in a well-spring voice straight from the heartland. To pull that off Marschke assembled a tour-de-force of supporting musicians that come to each song as an impressive, if slightly understated ensemble. The strength of that ensemble becomes fully apparent for “Just a Deck of Cards,” the album’s third selection, a playful mid-tempo country-rock offering.
Carried along by Brad Pemberton’s minimalist drums (The Cardinals), and backed Pete Finney of Dixie Chicks fame on guitar, and Mike Webb’s piano, “Lucille’s Honky Tonk” centers Cannery Row in its country roots. But it is “Oh Me Oh My” that emerges as the signature piece. Marschke is joined by Kim Collins(Indy-country duet Smoking Flowers)for a truly powerful and memorable lament. “Oh ain’t it funny how time just passes by, take you down the road in blink of an eye, Oh ain’t it funny how life just makes you try, work you down to the bitter end until the day that you die...” The edges here are rounded and softened by Finney’s guitar interwoven against Webb’s organ and piano.
Cannery Row finishes with the soulful “The Mansion,” a moody cascade of overlapping acoustic guitar, dobro and mandolin. “So many stories I must tell“, the song begins, “like how the wind moves through your hair.” And that is the real strength of Deadstring Brothers’ Cannery Row. There are more stories to tell here. Marschke leaves us wanting and waiting for more. Not over some nostalgia for bands of a bygone era, but for some truly beautiful and timeless songs yet to be written, and with a keen appreciation for the nearness and accessibility of Cannery Row. Grab yourself a good beer, turn this one up on some quiet evening and take a journey along Cannery Row. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-U0LG3b1sBs
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