While they've been critically lauded and adored by their cult-ish fan base for the majority of the last decade, the Deadstring Brothers had been treading water for some time now. An early spell with the ill-fated Times Beach Records didn't help, and while their 2003 self-titled debut album on that label made some waves on both sides of the Atlantic (due to some heavy UK touring), there was nothing big enough for the group to surf on. There were major changes within the band's ranks in 2006 when, during a British tour, main man Kurt Marschke met English (genuine!) brothers Spencer and Jeff Callum. One jam session was enough to convince Marschke that a multi-national, Atlantic-defying Deadstring was the way to go. 2007's well-received Silver Mountain album found the Callums eased into the lineup gently. And now that they're at album No. 4, the Callum brothers are full members; their addition to the unit helping to make São Paulo by far the band's best effort to date, down to its lovely cover art.
Throughout their career thus far, this band has been regularly compared to such whiskey-sotted rockers as the Stones and the Black Crowes, and it's fair to say that they've never sounded more like Exile on Main Street than they do here on the title track and the phenomenal "The River Song." The smell of reefer and worn leather hangs heavy throughout this record, creating the aural equivalent of an old car — picture a '91 Ford that has endured a lifetime of smokers and drinkers.
And back on that Glimmer Twins tip, "Adalee" is a beautiful, soulful little number that vaguely recalls "Angie." That song and also "Can't Make It Through the Night" find the band practically going gospel in the choruses. (And most bands can't carry such a comparison off without sounding affected.)
There isn't a bad song on São Paulo. So, yeah, the Deadstring Brothers have never been more alive.
Brett Callwood writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].