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Dead South - Sugar and Joy

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 22 / 10 / 2019

Dead South - Sugar and Joy
Label: Six Shooter Records
Format: CD


Fabulous third album from Canadian bluegrass outfit the Dead South, which will appeal to those who would usually steer clear of the genre

Having missed their Glastonbury performance, one can only assume that Canadian bluegrass heroes the Dead South expanded their audience somewhat. If the four-piece displayed just a fraction of the energy that producer Jimmy Nutt (Ex-Fame Recording Studios, enough said) has captured on the band’s third album 'Sugar and Joy’, the audience would have lapped up their infectious sound and dynamism. If bluegrass isn’t your thing then check out the band’s video for ‘In Hell I’ll Be in Good Company’ and get ready to be converted, apart from the song being addictive and appealing to those who would usually cross the road to avoid bluegrass it’s coupled with excellent visuals. It’s no surprise that it’s had over 145 million views so far. Yes, that’s 145 million. ‘Sugar and Joy’ is the sound of a band not only believing in what they do but also enjoying it. There’s a sense of camaraderie shining through these eleven songs, the sound of a bunch of guys sharing a musical vision and having fun creating it. Although there are thirteen tracks listed on the sleeve the opening cut, the instrumental ‘Act Of Approach’ is just 45 seconds short and the closing tune, ‘Distance Oneself’ clocks in at just over one minute and is also an instrumental cousin to that opening tune. They are there for a reason though; they top and tail the music between perfectly. While the band continue with their usual brand of upbeat bluegrass we’ve come to expect from them on the real opening song ‘Diamond Ring’, there’s evidence that the band are widening their musical boundaries a little throughout the album. That opening song is hard to sit still to despite the subject being a robbery; there are unexpected shifts in tempo and atmosphere which make it compelling listening, and with shades of blues mixed in with the bands usual sound it’s a killer of a song to start the album with. ‘Blue Trash’ is a sing-a-long which races along at times. Another song that it’s hard to sit still to, it’s blessed with fantastic harmonies; so much is made of the talent these guys have on their various instruments and how they can make them talk that it’s easy sometimes to forget just how competent each member is on their chosen instrument. ‘Black Lung’ is a banjo-drenched tale with an irresistible double bass line that drives the song along. Again the song tells a whole story in just over three minutes and the vocals are once again flawless. “Need a whiskey for this one” someone mentions at the start of ‘Fat Little Killer Boy'. Its hilarious but disturbing lyrics again driven by banjo will have the listener’s foot, tapping despite the disconcerting lyrics. ‘Broken Cowboy’ is where the band seems to take a slightly different direction. All the elements are still there but the band lower the tempo; as the story unfolds it becomes apparent that it’s another song about fighting but with an even sadder twist this time, the strings bringing home even more the sadness at the core of the song. A band that is always strong lyrically on this track turn in some of their best work. ‘Crawdaddy Served Cold’ is the most adventurous track on the albumm. It displays various sides of the band and there are lines there that must mean something to them - “Life ain’t easy being on the road/It’s a van full of filthy trash, and a bag of stinky clothes/Long drives and cigarettes/Sweaty suits for weeks, and trying to play our best.” It’s a highlight. A bluegrass album for those who think bluegrass is a genre that won’t appeal to them then. The songwriting, playing, arrangements and production are all first class, which is why ‘Sugar and Joy’ will broaden The Dead South’s fan base and why this album deserves your time.

Track Listing:-
1 Act of Approach
2 Diamond Ring
3 Blue Trash
4 Black Lung
5 Fat Little Killer Boy
6 Broken Cowboy
7 Snake Man, Pt. 1
8 Snake Man, Pt. 2
9 Heaven in a Wheelbarrow
10 Crawdaddy Served Cold
11 Alabama People
12 Spaghetti
13 Distance Oneself

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