Music News & Reviews

Walter Tunis: Despite honky-tonk leanings, Deadstring Brothers isn't making country music, leader says

Kurt Marschke and his Deadstring Brothers band have made the move from Detroit to Nashville.
Kurt Marschke and his Deadstring Brothers band have made the move from Detroit to Nashville.

Deadstring Brothers

8 p.m. June 22 at Willie's Locally Known, 805 N. Broadway. $8. (859) 281-1116.

Comparisons employed by many critics during the past decade to peg the music that Kurt Marschke has fashioned with his Detroit-based Deadstring Brothers invariably wind up at the feet of the Rolling Stones — the loose, boozy, roots-driven party music of the landmark album Exile on Main St.

But with Marschke now living in Nashville and a splendid new recording titled Cannery Row to his credit, the labels have changed. Now Deadstring Brothers is perceived as a kind of alt- country troupe. With the sounds of pedal steel guitar, piano, dobro, even the strikingly familiar voice of longtime Willie Nelson harmonica ace Mickey Raphael coloring Marschke's newest songs, such a tag would seem logical. Marschke will have none of that, though — at least not for now.

"This is not a country record," he said of Cannery Row. "You know who makes great country records right now? Hayes Carll and Jim Lauderdale. Those guys make great country music, of which I'm a huge fan. But I did not make a country record. What we did was just make an American music record.

"We actually want to do a country record — more of a straight honky-tonk record with covers and stuff — just because we do so much country music live. A lot of times, we're out playing every night of the week. We'll play in markets that might not really care a whole lot about Deadstring Brothers. But you've got to play Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and we do, and we'll play two hours of honky-tonk. It's such a big passion of ours that we feel it might be a wise thing to incorporate that more in our future recordings."

Marschke brings his newest Deadstring Brothers to Willie's Locally Known on Saturday.

For more of our interview with Marschke, visit my blog, The Musical Box, at

Also this weekend

■ Although he has been a regular in Louisville clubs over the years, pop/folk/proto-punk stylist Jonathan Richman seldom makes his way to Lexington. But the onetime chieftain of the landmark Boston garage band The Modern Lovers performs Friday at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Avenue, for an early show. Richman's mix of outsider themes, elemental rock influences, which turn surprisingly folkish in his solo shows, and sometimes askew pop temperaments set the stage for bands such as They Might Be Giants, Violent Femmes and others. He also was the subject of a 2001 tribute album titled If I Were a Richman. (8 p.m. $10, $12. (859) 309-9499.

■ What Richman was to the booming garage rock world in the early '70s, Ray Wylie Hubbard was to a flourishing progressive country songwriter movement in Texas at almost the same time. Never mind he was born in Oklahoma and wrote one of his most famous barroom busters (Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother) in New Mexico. The poetic sentiments of his songs and the unmistakable Americana slant within the melodies that dress them are drenched in Lone Star soul. Hubbard has lost a few years along the way to hard living but has been leading a fruitful, creative life during the past two decades with such masterful albums as 1999's Crusades of the Restless Knights and last year's extraordinary The Grifter's Hymnal. Hubbard returns to Lexington on Sunday for a performance at Willie's Locally Known. (8 p.m. $20.)

High Voltage

Son Volt is one of those great acts that should be playing Lexington on at least a semi-regular basis. But there hasn't been a local concert appearance since founder/ leader Jay Farrar restarted the band in 2005 for the extraordinary album Okemah and the Melody of Riot and a subsequent show at the long-defunct Dame.

This weekend you have two opportunities to catch Farrar and the evolving Son Volt as it shows off the atmospheric country soundscapes of its new Honky Tonk. The band performs Saturday at the Southgate House Revival, 111 East Sixth Street in Newport (8:30 p.m. $10. (859) 431-2201. and Sunday at Headliners Music Hall, 1386 Lexington Road in Louisville (8 p.m. $18, (502) 584-8088. Colonel Ford will open both shows.

Mountain encore

Among the delights this month at the Festival of the Bluegrass were two rustic, rootsy sets by North Carolina's Town Mountain. Highlights included the twisted waltz refrain within the title tune to the band's recent album Leave the Bottle, the fierce fiddle and mandolin square-offs that sparked Four Miles and the Western slant of a new Robbie Fulks song, Long I Ride. If you missed the fun, Town Mountain will be back Wednesday for an encore performance at Willie's Locally Known. 10 String Symphony opens. (7 p.m. $10.)