Band hits its stride
Country-rock group the Deadstring Brothers has had plenty of changes to its lineup since releasing its self-titled debut album in 2003.
“That’s basically how it is with any band that’s broke,” founder and frontman Kurt Marschke told me from the road Wednesday morning, just after the trailer to the band’s rig came unhinged while they were driving.
After years of traveling with a rotating cast (and drawing possibly one too many comparisons to the “Exile”-era Rolling Stones), Marschke moved from his hometown Detroit to Nashville in 2010 and began touring solo, playing kickdrum, guitar and harp as a one-man band.
Things changed last spring when an old friend and fellow Detroiter, bassist Jd Mack (formally of Whitey Morgan & the 78’s), messaged Marschke with the idea of working together.
“As soon as he left Whitey, he figured we’d end up doing this,” Marschke said. “We were made to work together.”
The duo assembled a supporting cast, put out the fifth Deadstrings Brothers album in August, “Cannery Row” (Bloodshot Records), and embarked on a 250-gig tour. The band is about halfway through.
“You hit your stride,” Marschke said of life on the road. “You can’t wear out because you’ve got nowhere to go. You have to. The rest of your life is falling apart; no one wants to be around you because they know what you’ll be doing for the next two years.
“So we bought a big ass van,” he added. “It’s like living on the high seas. It’s fun.”
The Deadstring Brothers play old-school country rock for a modern crowd.
“It’s the kind of music you have to go slug it out because it’s not super trendy,” Marschke said, noting the band’s distinction from indie bluegrass and contemporary string band folk rock that has risen to such popularity. (“It kind of blows my mind” that a group like Old Crow Medicine Show is now Brit pop music, he says.)
Marschke sticks with the music he loves, a mix of country and traditional rock, with touches of Delta and backwoods blues. “I just mix up what I mix up and if people think it’s good, cool.”
The comparison to the Rolling Stones started before the band was signed and playing gigs in Europe, Marschke said, and followed them with the release of each new album. While the swagger of some Deadstring music certainly merits a Stones comparison, the band’s library is Americana-based with flavors of Ry Cooder, The Band, Steve Earle, Hank Williams Sr. and others.
But Marchke doesn’t mind how his music is described, as long as he’s free to tour and expand the band’s audience. “There’s worse comparisons,” he said. “I’m not complaining. I’m happy (the press) even wants to write about my music.”
The new album’s title is derived from Marschke’s Nashville neighborhood, Cannery Row. The songs roam among skylines, sunsets and open spaces, reflecting on a comforting, downhome vision of life.
The Deadstring Brothers will be coming through Yamhill County on Saturday to headline the Wildwood MusicFest that night. For more information on the band, visit deadstringbrother.com.
WILDWOOD MUSICFEST & CAMPOUT
The Wildwood MusicFest is following up on the success of last year’s debut with a stellar lineup of musicians to play in the Coastal Hills setting of Roshambo Art Farm, 22900 SW Pittman Road, Sheridan (on Highway 18B between Sheridan and Willamina).
Nineteen bands will perform Friday evening and all day Saturday on a custom stage backed by a weathered basalt rock quarry.
The intimate setting and homegrown atmosphere make for an enjoyable weekend for young and old (kids 18 and under must be accompanied by a parent or guardian).
Bands will travel from as near as Newberg (The Hill Dogs) and as far as Nashville (Deadstring Brothers), Austin, Texas (Possessed by Paul James) and Akron, Ohio (Shivering Timbers). Regional favorites like McDougal, Sassparilla, Water Tower, Jackrabbit and more fill out the bill.
Gates open at 3 p.m. Friday, with music starting at 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday. Tickets are $75 for a weekend pass, $42 for Saturday only. Camping is $10 a vehicle. Visit www.wildwoodmusicfest.com for tickets and more information.