Personnel: Kurt Marschke (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, resonator guitar, banjo); Kim Collins (vocals); Pete Finney (dobro); Mike Webb (mandolin, accordion, piano); Mickey Raphael (harmonica); Brad Pemberton (drums, percussion).
Recording information: The Reel, East Nashville, Tn.
Photographer: Joshua Black Wilkins.
First off, Detroit's Deadstring Brothers have left Motown and relocated to Nashville, a move that isn't all that startling, since they've always sounded like they were from some mythic deep south anyway, with a sound that wrapped country, gospel, and blues up into a skillful facsimile of "Wild Horses"-era Rolling Stones, and Cannery Row is Kurt Marschke and company's first album since Nashville beckoned. The problem with this band, if it's really a problem, is that they sound exactly like that moment in time when Gram Parsons collided with the Stones in the 1970s, so much so that the Deadstring Brothers' sound like a cover band for a whole era of Stones albums recorded in an alternative universe where the actual Stones never ventured, which is all fine if you like the thought of that kind of thing, but a problem -- and at the very least, a conundrum -- if you don't. Marschke always sounds like Exile-era Mick Jagger when he sings, and one could swear the alternative ghost of Keith Richards is in there somewhere, too, with all the layered, swampy arranging of acoustic and electric guitars. All of this wouldn't even be the slightest bit bothersome, since the songs and production are wonderfully done and sound almost vintage, if it wasn't so damn eerie. Did the move to Nashville change any of this and maybe move the Brothers a little closer to an utterly original Americana country sound that was all their own? Well, no. There are a few more country elements on Cannery Row, but it still sounds like the alternative trapped-at-"Wild Horses" facsimile version of the Stones doing their thing. Hey, these guys do that thing well, and songs like the title tune, the majestic "Cannery Row," seem like they should have been great lost Stones songs, while the couple of songs that take baby steps out of that sound, including the lovely and bouncy "It's Morning Irene" and the chugging two-step shuffle "Lucille's Honky Tonk," are really the brightest moments here, for they suggest a Deadstring Brothers that could actually sound like themselves and not be dragging a long vanished phase of the Rolling Stones around with them. ~ Steve Leggett