Canada-based band The Dead South formed back in 2012 during which time they have produced three astounding albums, each one better than the last. The most recently released of these is Illusion & Doubt, a heady collection of country and bluegrass tunes that perfectly utilise the groups careful amalgamations of folk, country, bluegrass and punk to form a sound quite unlike anything you have ever heard before.
Illusion & Doubt is the perfect addition to their growing catalogue and gives the group the chance to overtake themselves from their previous album Good Company. Increasing the groups notoriety across the globe was arguably their most famous single In Hell I’ll be Good Company – a track that gained around one million views per week on Youtube. What’s particularly exciting about this isn’t simply the fact of a great song but the fact that although The Dead South have always seemed fearless but with their growing influence it appears that their fearlessness grows too and this has helped to adapt and evolve their sound leaving us with the break-neck, punched up anthems of Illusion & Doubt. An album that is powered by a pure and raw, unadulterated and inimitable energy.
The Dead South have a stunning musical ability, far more than you can ever fully appreciate on just the first few listens. Each rendition lets you hear something else subtly hidden away within their work. Their music is powerfully driven by an energetic but stripped back acoustic atmosphere which is carefully overlaid with a rich and thrumbling cello and lightning strike banjo melodies which all combine to create some of the most dextrous and complex bluegrass songs of modern day. Described by some as ‘modern hillbillies’ this isn’t far from the truth and there is a wealth of influences at work within their songs from the powerful delivery of their work that echoes the punk of old to the smooth slide guitars and mandolin tunes of country. They have carefully stitched together their own genre and they are dominating its musical scene.
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However, while their music is enough to raise the roof on any barn with no questions asked, their phenomenal sound draws much of its power from the notorious gravelled vocals of Nate Hilts. Hilts has a voice like the crashing of tectonic plates – deep, guttural and natural powerful it seems to burn his words as they emerge and when sung with such a deep and burning passion his voice reaches though any maelstrom of sound and carves its way into your mind. You will only need to get a few seconds into The Dead South’s latest offering before you realise that this is an album that will leave you under no illusion as to the masterpieces you are hearing.
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Review by Joe Knipe