- 09 Feb 24
Solid outing for folk-pop crew. 7/10
Bluegrass outfit The Dead South are mainly celebrated for their raucous live shows, during which a community of diehard fans cosplay in the band’s signature Amish-hipster attire.
The Canadians are no strangers to the studio either, returning with their fourth LP Chains & Stakes, a wide-ranging collection which stays true to the music’s roots, while having enough folk-pop sensibilities to for a broader appeal.
Tone-setting opener ‘Blood On The Mind’ invites you in with raspy vocals, before blasting into a gypsyish polka. The Tarantella mandolin playing also shows the four-piece aren’t afraid to cup their ears beyond the Saskatchewan prairies.
Strong musicianship is exhibited throughout. ‘A Little Devil’ is a case in point, featuring tightly knit guitar and banjo that which stops and starts on a dime. Supplementing the excellent playing are demonstrations of unique and candid storytelling.
‘The Cured Contessa’ is a light-hearted reminder to appreciate the simpler things in life, while the subject matter intensifies on closer ‘Father John’ – which paints a picture of a priestly figure who lynches people in the name of the lord.
‘Son Of Ambrose’ hits a rich narrative vein, with themes like spirituality, raising children, death, and bare-knuckle boxing squeezed into a romping four minutes. Sprinkled between these rustic vignettes are the well-orchestrated instrumental tracks ‘Yore’, ‘Where Has the Time Gone’, and ‘Clemency’, which add atmosphere to the album through strings and brooding acoustic progressions.
Things occasionally veer into hillbilly cliché with the knee slappin’, bourbon chuggin’ ‘Mile Jump’, even if the track’s relentless pace will likely make it a hit during live shows. Appropriately ebbing between lightness and gloom, Chains & Stakes makes for a satisfying listen.