A rock band without a drummer, a bluegrass band without a fiddler.
To the gentlemen of The Dead South, a self-styled 4-piece string band from Regina, Saskatchewan, it’s about how, not what, you play. The Dead South’s combination of cello, mandolin, guitar and banjo has all the hallmarks of a group tuned to bygone times, but with their signature sleight of hand, The Dead South find distinctly modern bathos in this old time rigging.
After two studio albums and a music video that went viral (153 Million Clicks), the band has released their third album “Sugar & Joy” today (Oct. 11th 2019), via DevilDuck Records.
In “Diamond Ring,” released in June, poor William, whoever he is, done got robbed by a would-be groom trying to impress his betrothed. Money doesn’t buy love, but it does buy the ring. “Diamond Ring” comes with a new video directed by frequent collaborators, Regina’s Two Brothers Films (watch it here).
In The Dead South’s world, characters do what they must, even when twisted logic leads them astray. From the opening galloping strum to the lower register cello and backing vocals, the song’s moody mania captures The Dead South’s stock-in-trade, stories of desperation and bad decisions told in fast-paced, brightly-laced bursts.
Sugar & Joy, The Dead South’s tightest, weirdest and most exciting studio work yet, is their first album written and recorded outside Regina. The album was produced by FAME Studio-trained Jimmy Nutt, a longtime member of the Muscle Shoals music scene whose recent credits include a Grammy for his work on The Steeldrivers. “They have an obvious dedication to what they are doing,” says Nutt. “They really encourage each other, which you don’t see a lot.”
A Bauhaus-via-bluegrass stomp and minor-key mandolin tremolo of “Alabama People,” which finds the universal in the hyper-regional, could not have been written anywhere else but at The Nutthouse. With equal parts empathy and fear, The Dead South have channeled their experience in the fraught, beautiful south into an outsider, observational anthem.
The ongoing question of what is, or is not, bluegrass music, occasionally froths up in The Dead South’s wake as they speed on to the next gig. Cue “Blue Trash,” a song built on a perfectly bluegrassy banjo lick about…
…not being a bluegrass band. “Blue Trash” is a love letter – not apologia – to the purists, for The Dead South come in peace.