The Saskatchewan region is what the name implies: a province in the prairies of Canada. Twice as big as Germany, but with less than a million inhabitants. Lots of nature, a lot of peace. Maybe a lot of time to fill the silence with music.
So here lies the origin of The Dead South, which fit perfectly into the environment. With their debut album "Good Company", the four hairy and bearded fellas with hat and singer Nate Hilts present their sound - a mix of folk, neo-folk and bluegrass-folk, or simply call it Alternative Country with refreshing melodies, alot of humour and cheeky lyrics. The instrumentation remains deliberately pure: guitars, cello, banjo, kick drum and mandolin as the acoustic foundation for the incisive, full lead vocals and harmonies.
The first album was a kind of promise that is now being fulfilled with the new release "Illusion & Doubt". No doubt the quartet from the prairie has matured - not only because the banjo is played by a lady now. Harmony changes as well as excellent and virtuoso instrumental parts have been added to their energetic, passionate and sometimes surprisingly catchy tunes. But Hilts & Co have become anything but tame:
“We are definitely closer to the Pogues than to Alison Krauss. Unfortunately, we do not possess much of the delicate elegance so we try and bring more energy and entertainment to our side. You could say we are a mix of Nu-folk with a few different styles mixed in between. We tend to add elements of classical, punk, rock, alternative, bluegrass, folk and everything in between.”
The opener "Boots" starts like a grizzly bear on ecstasy, and after a short, quiet upbeat, there is no stone unturned. Borne by banjo and guitar, grounded in a stoic cello, Hilts tells a free-spirited love story: rough, sincere and honest.
With the following track "Every Man Needs a Chew" - the first song the band has ever written - they accelerate with impulsive beat, squeaky violin and Gypsy-Swing components.
Incidentally, the band has a second great lead singer with Scott Pringle. You can convince yourself of that in "Dead Man's Isle", a drinking song with a great chorus and bizarre lyrics. A drunk guy expects his dog to drive him home.
If that does not remind you of The Pogues, then "One-Armed Man", another slightly tipsy party anthem, will surely do.
The Dead South feel really good at a fast pace, but also slower and more subtle, as you can hear in "The Good Lord":
“This is our version of a classic country tune. It is about a husband and wife separated by war. The wife waits pregnant at home wondering if the child will ever meet his father, while the father at war wonders the same thing”,
says Hilts of the harmonic lovely, lyrically but irritating song.
Another good example is "Miss Mary":
“The album's title is taken from a line in this song. In classic Dead South fashion, a woman takes too many pills and murders her husband, before she comes to and realizes what she's done”,
Hilts describes her kind of humor. The same gloom is found in the western style of "Massacre Of El Kuroke" and in the glorious 8-minute spaghetti western ballad "Gunslinger's Glory".
Yihaaaaaa, finally The Dead South 2020 will be coming to Poland for the first time!