I can tell you that I know sod-all about this band.
A confession. Apart from periodical flirtations with "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" or the odd Johnny Cash lp, I can't be classed as a number one fan of country or country tinged rock. Not my culture, I'm afraid. I'm always suspicious – and I think rightly so, too – of people who hail from Pelaw, Oswaldtwistle or, for that matter, Voorhout, who take their affectations towards country rock too far. After all, authenticity is the name of the game with good ol' country.
Problem is, even with authentic artists country rock is a genre that is defined to a level almost amounting to pastiche. Which makes it easy for crap exponents of the genre to get away with crap records. Which, furthermore, makes it difficult for the cynical listener to totally suspend disbelief whilst listening to records of this nature. Especially when you've been subjected to such horrors as the Jagger southern drawl on "Sweet Virginia". Just thinking of the nasal banalities on "Exile on Main Street" can make me break into a sweat of fear and loathing. To take matters one step further m'lud, this confession is precisely why you can trust me implicitly when I tell you that this is a good record, and something of a find.
I can also tell you that I know sod-all about this band. The press release tells us that they are from Detroit, a city not renowned for country rock. They formed in 2001, and released this record sometime late in 2003. I'm guessing here, but I suggest that, save for some local adulation and modest States-side acclaim, this release suffered the ignominy of being filed by genre in the cd racks. I'm pretty sure that it has just been released over here now (hence, of course, this review) in the hope that someone will pick up on this, but I'm guessing again.
It's a crying shame because this record, whilst paying obvious tribute to the country rock canon, manages to stand successfully on its own two feet. The song writing is incredibly strong, and the Deadstring Brothers' trick card. The arrangements are lucid and tough and the singer has a voice that could get money out of your local Tax Returns Office. The opening track, "I'm not a Stealer", is beautiful, languid and spacious and blessed with a fair amount of sonic toughness. Other highlights are "It Takes Love", a sparky strum-along very reminiscent of "Fairweather Friend" off of John Cale's "Vintage Violence" album, and ""Such a Crime" which is a great bar room lament.
Oh, and this record's got a great cover too. But there again, I've always been a sucker for vintage aeroplanes.
Words: Richard Foster