From the classic rock echoes that hang heavy like the reefer smoke in the rafters of Detroit's Cobo Hall, to the soul reflected in the alleys and small faces of London's Heavy Load scene to the exile off Main Street, few bands channel the sonic groove generated at the headwaters of our rock and roll DNA like Deadstring Brothers.
They know that rock and roll is both disease and redemption, penalty and reward, intoxicant and hangover. They know that a powerhouse hook exhilarates even as you're getting kicked in the heart. The Brothers, in their leather boots and frayed jeans, tenaciously trudge through the oil slick puddles of a dying city, the hard light splitting into prismatic rainbows, finding beauty in decay.
By using the studio itself as an instrument like they never have before, Deadstring Brothers have made Sao Paulo, their 3rd album for Bloodshot, a record for the classic rock fan in all of us, but never stoop to mimicry. Just check out the stoner exoticism of the title track, in all its fever dreams and revelatory thunder, the Leon Russell-inflected boogie of "Smile" or the comforting guitar crunch and soaring organ riffs in "The River Song" that speak to riding the open road in a ragtop as well as the sooty factory that made it all possible.
Lying at the (battered) heart of the record is singer/guitarist Kurt Marschke. When he sings "I can kneel down, but I just can't pray" on "It's a Shame," you're hearing a man bloodied and bowed. Yesterday's Style is the sound of a soul breaking, a glassy-eyed 1,000 yard stare, the ache coming through the speakers. Somehow, though, he manages to pull together the remaining shards of his dignity to look forward and carry on in the closing track "Always A Friend of Mine", a song so good it should skate into the pantheon of country rock classics.
Joining Kurt in the band are longtime drummer and fellow Detroiter Travis Harrett, and the brothers Cullum---Spencer (guitar, pedal steel and slide guitar) and Jeff (bass). The Cullums, a couple of London lads, came into the Deadstring fold during a UK tour in 2006. Both were mainstays in the burgeoning Heavy Load scene built around a communal love of all things Stones, Crowes and Allmans. It was love at first jam and the boys joined up and bridged the waters between London and Detroit in time to record their 2nd album Silver Mountain. Sao Paulo marks their full integration to the band, and it shows, with the majority of the record's songs being co-writes with Kurt.
Sao Paulo understands the liberation borne of mourning, that an elegy cannot truly soar without jarring adversity to buoy it. Built on the ample shoulders of masterful forebears, Deadstring Brothers delve into the grit and sweat of dirty blues scooped from the fields of the Delta and polish it in the toxic waters of the Detroit River; the smell of their motor oil, strong coffee and whiskey-stained beards narcotic.