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The Dead South - Alive & Well at the Ryman

by Rich and Laura Lynch

The Dead South are based out of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada but - by the looks of them and the sounds they make - one might think that these musicians hail from Appalachia in the Eastern United States. Formed over a decade ago, the four friends soon became as close as brothers. But, like any family they have had their ups and downs that included some shuffling of the line-up. At the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee on July 07, 2023 the original quartet found themselves making their debut at the Mother Church of Country Music to a sold-out audience. According to the band's team this was the most important show for TDS to date and we watched one of the most raucous Ryman crowds in recent memory greet them with open arms and plenty of foot stomping.

The Dead South invade the Ryman from north of the border.

The Dead South could be considered a bluegrass band yet they are a bit unorthodox. On one side of the line is Danny Kenyon who is the rhythm section and plays a cello rather than a stand-up base. At the other end is Colton Crawford on banjo who occasionally adds a bass drum punch to their potent picking. Between them is Nate Hilts and Scott Pringle with each handling guitar and/or mandolin which means some of their songs featured a two-guitar attack. At the Ryman, they were similarly dressed which is often how bluegrass groups choose to present themselves. All four sang so the only thing technically missing was a fiddle.

Their set-up at the Ryman was straightforward with four mics near the edge of the stage. A backdrop, lights, some smoke but no videos were utilized. Instead, The Dead South let the music do most of the talking during their lively show. Around 9:15pm we heard instruments from the back of the stage as fans went wild - hooting, hollering and banging on the ancient pews - as the four strolled to the front to open with a rousing "The Recap" flowing into a beguiling "Blue Trash". The Dead South pen and play intense intricate compositions but they are also known for creative covers. We got a big kick out of their video and alien take on The Doors' "People Are Strange" that we checked out prior to the concert.

The Dead South - a quality quartet whose time has surely come.

"How ya doing Nashville? Happy as hell to be here," they said as they moved into more dramatic and sometimes dark pieces. They mentioned recording their latest record in Mexico City and performed a number of new tracks but did not give the titles just in case they change them. The most current material seemed to be in line with a sound that is really working for the band. Their music was a rich tapestry of tempos, textures and tales of the not so nice sides of life. Yes, they are non-conformists but they did uphold the bluegrass custom that when one guy steps up to solo the others stepped back before all returned to the row for more furious picking.

Opener Corb Lund said this was gonna be a "fun tour".

There is something rebellious about this bluegrass band with tunes like "In Hell I'll Be in Good Company" and their last number of the night - "Banjo Odyssey". Apparently, since its release in 2014, that closer about two cousins engaged in a relationship was considered by some to be offensive because it alludes to violence. Folks at the Ryman did not seem to be bothered by it and were on their feet as The Dead South proved that they were alive and well in Nashville.

Opening for The Dead South was fellow Canadian Corb Lund. Corb grew up on a family farm but moved to the big city of Edmonton to study music. Since then he has released close to a dozen albums with three striking gold. He tours Canada, the U.S. and Australia regularly. His down-home, country-western technique set the tone for a night of edgy takes on traditional styles of music.

We've been following the great Corb Lund for more than twenty years.

Lund with his band explored a range of serious topics such as going off to war and reflecting that our days are numbered. There were some lighter moments with a trucking tune and a drinking song. Corb also shared some family history in tales about cards, grave-digging and bootlegging. His last spirited song was about whiskey. Folks quickly picked up on its hook to sing along thus ending Corb's solid set on a fun note.

Corb Lund and band on the famous Ryman stage in Nashville.

Related Links: For more information on THE DEAD SOUTH and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - The Dead South | Corb Lund | Ryman Auditorium


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