Review: The Dead South, “Served Live”

Dead South - Served Live

When it comes to learning of great new music from my favorite artists, I’m an easy sell.  And it’s true, I’ll be the first to admit it.  When it comes to learning of a live concert performance pressed onto limited edition gold vinyl, I’m truly a marketer’s dream target, and thanks to the announcement late last year from both Regina, SK alt-bluegrass rockers The Dead South, and their label, Six Shooter Records, that this very prized possession was being made commercially available, I naturally succumbed to their charms.  How many times have I told you that I’m a sucker for live music releases?  For live music in general?  Heck, those very words form part of my artist bio at the footer of this article, along with every other piece I’ve written here for GDW.  And given that live concerts are on pause right now, picking up a copy of this album is an essential fix for keeping those ‘no-shows’ blues at bay.

Although formed back in 2012, it was almost five years later before this highly energetic and uniquely attired four-piece ensemble would cross my musical radar.  Picking up a copy of their 2014 “Good Company” album on a whim (as featured in our “Take A Chance on Me” series), I was very quickly drawn to their edgy fusion of folk and bluegrass, and left in complete awe of their phenomenal rapid picking skills.  This is not your average Flatt & Scruggs bluegrass, but, as per the band’s official bio, a ‘taut configuration of cello, mandolin, banjo, and guitar, [which] speeds like a train past polite definitions of acoustic music into the grittier, rowdier spaces of the bluegrass world,’ an outlaw-based, punk-laced interpretation of the genre that will likely have your grandparents running for the hills.

“Served Live” was released on January 29th and is the band’s first double live album, captured and recorded throughout their Served Cold world tour between October 2019 and February 2020.  The album not only boasts a generous 17 track set list featuring many of their hits and crowd favorites, but is unique in the sense that no two tunes are included from the same cities and venues.  This truly was a tour across continents, and each track offers a glimpse into their shows both here in the US and Canada, along with gigs in the UK and Ireland too.  Rest assured, however, that no matter where in the world each song was captured, the performance is earth-shattering and the crowd appreciation reflective of it.

Dead South

Opening with the recognizable intro to their radio hit “Diamond Ring,” a track taken from their JUNO Award winning 2019 “Sugar and Joy” album, the crowd are abuzz here at the Belasco Theatre in Los Angeles.  Transitioning into the following track, you very quickly appreciate the recording and mixing from Kyle ‘Rhubarb’ Halvorson, who utilizes minimal fade out and dead spacing between songs, opting instead to create this perfect illusion of a singular concert event in which you can envision the tuning and switching of instruments, wiping of sweaty brows, and sheer revelry of feeding from the audiences before them.  “Hello.  We’re the Dead South,” greets lead vocalist Nathaniel Hilts (guitar/mandolin) to an appreciative room in Seattle, a delivery similar to that used by the late Johnny Cash, before all four gentlemen burst into the rapid picking that signals the arrival of another recent hit, “Blue Trash.”  Joined, as always, by Scott Pringle (mandolin/guitar/vocals), Colton Crawford (banjo/vocals), and Danny Kenyon (cello/vocals – but has since departed from the band), it is pretty much impossible to not crank up the volume and drift into each and every music room featured here.  I have not yet been fortunate enough to catch this band live in person myself, but this collection of songs not only temporarily transports me there, it serves to make sure I find a way to do this for real one day. 

Whether soaking up the experiences from renowned venues such as The House of Blues in Boston, Mtelus in Montreal, or the O2 Brixton Academy in London, The Dead South deliver each and every track with the intensity and incredible musicianship that their fans have come to expect.  Slower pieces such as “Broken Cowboy” and “Boots” appear at perfectly timed intervals to help your heart rate subside for a while, before the guys crank up the pace once more to deliver outstanding renditions of “Heaven In A Wheelbarrow,” “Travellin’ Man,” and, of course, the anthem that is “In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company.”  If you are looking for a perfect musical excursion for your next Friday AND Saturday night (because you’ll enjoy this one more than just once), “Served Live” offers a solid ninety minutes of amazing music from a band that have developed and earned their loyal and successful following.  Go ahead and pick up a copy (vinyl or CD), or stream from your favorite digital platform, and lose yourselves for a while in their Good Company – trust me, you’ll want to get lost in this one time and time again. The physical and emotional rollercoaster encountered during shows like this are not an option for the majority of us right now, but at least with “Served Live,” we can find some temporary indulgence in our ‘live music’ happy place.

Photo Credit: Artist Official Website

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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