Point camera on the face, on a farm track. Hitch up the cello and start whistling. That’s the opening shot of The Dead South’s fabulously popular video (over 35 million YouTube views in just over a year) of their song In Hell I’ll be in Good Company. It went down like a Stampede Party on Saturday when they played it live in Calgary. Along with other songs from their second album, Good Company and their latest recording, Illusion & Doubt (Curve Music) all was finger-clicking and boot-stomping good from the Saskatoon-based band.
The capacity crowd of a thousand crammed into The Gateway, SAIT for this Calgary Folk Music Festival Fall Concert Series gig was with them (and the support act, Boots & The Hoots-review here) all the way. “They’re awesome, nothing quite like it,” said a fan, Gary Woolverton, who gave a much better explanation of the band’s genre than the usual bluegrass/folk/rock description. Hemmed up front against the barrier he promptly described their music as “Dirty Country”. Copy that.
Cello, you’ve got a bass
The Dead South stage sound features, literally, jumping banjo (see the photos) played by Eliza Doyle, who also bangs a kick drum with a cows skull on the skin, and a real bleached one to the side, and hits hard into a canister of percussion. She joined the band after Colton Crawford had to withdraw from active duty when he became sleepless in Saxony (see CBC article for more). That made the band one hat less but they still have the wide-brimmed boys, Nate Hilts and Scott Pringle, on guitars, mandolins, and voices. Just to distinguish, Nate is the more gravelly-voiced of the prairie two-some and the one who keeps his pleckies (guitar picks) in the brim of his headgear.
Completing the line-up with “cello, you’ve got a bass” (as Jack Black said in the brill film School of Rock) is Danny Kenyon, who delightfully plucks and bows his heavily duct-taped, melancholy instrument with lots of melodic cheer.
Boots, the opening song from Illusion & Doubt, was introduced by Nate Hilts as “a song about having too many beers”, prompting a bottle-swig of Jameson’s whiskey by all the band members. That Bastard Son, another drinking song (“I just want liquor and dirty whores, ’cause I don’t care no more”) also went down like a good pint. There was room for a cover as well, Rox in the Box by The Decemberists.
After a long, well-loved set, The Dead South tripped off stage one by one, then came back for an extended encore, playing three or more songs before heading back east across the Prairies for a couple of gigs in Toronto them home in Saskatchewan for the new year. I’m still whistling that contagious, Dirty Country song about being in Hell.
More action from the gig
For more photos from the gig please visit J. Ashley Nixon Communications