Published Oct 08, 2019They may be from the all-Canadian plains of Saskatchewan, but bold bluegrass quartet the Dead South pull off the grit and soul of the American South with punk prowess. Their first record recorded away from home, Sugar & Joy tells their trademark tales of bending morals, boozy burdens and love-drunk woe.
Quick opener "Act of Approach" sets up "Diamond Ring," a steady ballad driven by solemn vocals and the slow bleed of cello. "Blue Trash" and "Fat Little Killer Boy" then dramatically lighten the mood, releasing tension that gets built and collapsed repeatedly throughout the album. Though the shifts in pace are unpredictable, they feels deliberate: this band's power truly is in shameless whimsicality. And despite the album's ups and downs, one thing that never falters is the raw energy that make the Dead South who they are.
The anecdotal style the band have embraced since day one makes for a boot-stomping adventure in narrative. Romantic mournfulness collides with aggression and ecstasy in a series of virtually self-contained anecdotes. The excitement is in the fluctuations, as we dance and sway through 13 tracks of fresh personas and personal mythologies. And though Sugar & Joy is as outrageously fun as any of their previous records, it may be their most soulful feat yet. (Six Shooter)