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Deadstring Brothers - Deadstring Brothers

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Artist: Deadstring Brothers

Album: Deadstring Brothers

Label: Times Beach

Review date: May. 31, 2004

For most of their debut album, the Deadstring Brothers sound both completely genuine and wonderfully refreshing. The guitar swipes on leadoff track "I'm Not A Stealer" wash over its barren drumbeat like lightning, and the foreshadowed storm bursts formidably in a flurry of piano and pedal steel as singer Kurt Marschke cries, "Woke up this morning / And covered you in white." This is a country album that exudes authenticity like few in recent memory.

Unfortunately, the novelty of authenticity doesn't really last. The album eventually begins to fall into clichés that are half the band's own and half public domain at this point. After four or five excellent songs, they seem to have showcased the extent of their repertoire, and the latter half of the record runs like a repetition of the first with none of the surprises. Marschke's thick tenor (one of several ways the band often recalls the Rolling Stones) and classically downtrodden lyrics are rich and consistent, but they prove to be limited to "Jones Street" and "Such A Crime." Similarly, the constant wall of guitar, piano/organ, and steel/dobro makes for a lush barroom feel, but doesn't offer too much melodic variety.

Then again, isn't it a little foolish to expect a country album to make more than a handful of moves? Johnny Cash, whose influence is in spades on Deadstring Brothers (culminating in a cover of "The Long Black Veil"), doesn't endure for his powers of musical reinvention, but for his iconic life and earnest, world-weary sentiments. While that may be out of reach to five guys who might be mistaken on the street for the members of, say, Hot Hot Heat, it's certainly hard to blame them for trying to recapture that honest simplicity. The fact that their approach is more fleshed out than Cash's is no real reason to complain of its repetitive nature; rather, the fact that they do it so right over and over – on their first outing at that – makes them all the more praiseworthy.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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