By Alli Patton
Over the album’s 13 tracks, The Dead South welcome listeners to familiar surroundings: a dusty, barren prairie scape where lawman and criminal are often one and the same.
1. Blood On The Mind
2. Yours To Keep
3. 20 Mile Jump
4. Where Has The Time Gone
5. A Little Devil
6. Son of Ambrose
8. Completely, Sweetly
9. A Place I Hardly Know
10. The Cured Contessa
11. Tiny Wooden Box
13. Father John
There's something to be said for a band that knows exactly who they are – for musicians who understand the importance of staying true to themselves and their sound. This can certainly be said for The Dead South.
For the last decade, the suspender-clad prog-grass, alt-Americana ensemble has become known for its boundary-pushing, traditionalist-shirking brand of bluegrass-folk. The quartet has refined this distinctive style, and from the sounds of their latest offering, they have yet to stray away from it. While their fourth studio album, Chains and Stakes, is certainly nothing new, does that make it any less notable?
Over the album’s 13 tracks, The Dead South welcome listeners to familiar surroundings: a dusty, barren prairie scape where lawman and criminal are often one and the same. With their trademark solemn strums and sharp, hellfire strings, the band breathes life across this arid plain, rattling bones, quaking graves and waking the dead. It’s a sound that has become the band’s modus operandi of sorts, neither good nor bad but rather at the mercy of personal taste.
The Dead South’s effortless skill and impressive finesse no doubt shine throughout the album. Every note sounds intentional and every run unbelievably controlled, their arrangements acting as the perfect foil for their skin-pricking harmonies. While each song follows a similar formula, no one sounds quite like the other.
Offerings like the frantic shuffle ‘Blood On The Mind,’ smoldering anthem ‘Yours To Keep’ and bitter ballad ‘Completely, Sweetly’ cast a broody pall over much of the release. A lightness, however, comes into play with fast grass soon-to-be classics like the plucky ‘20 Mile Jump,’ fiery ‘A Little Devil’ and bewitching ‘Tiny Wooden Box.’ Dreamy instrumental interludes are pleasantly peppered throughout, cutting the moody with the meditative.
Overall, Chains and Stakes is nothing we haven’t heard from The Dead South before. The songs are just another extension of their musical prowess, each an adequate addition to their equally unsurprising catalog. It may be predictable – perhaps obvious – but it's an enjoyable release all the same.
The Dead South’s new project, Chains and Stakes, is available on February 9 via Six Shooter Records.