For those of you who follow this site with any regularity, you know that I am immersed in the world of indie rock. The majority of bands we cover fall under the loosest definition of that term, and that happens to also be the genre of music that I spend most of my time listening to these days. But it wasn’t always so. My father worked at a classic rock radio station while I was a kid, and so I had a steady diet of guitar music from about 1966-1982 until I was in my preteen years. His own tastes were less in the Foreigner/Supertramp/Yes vein of classic rock (which somehow didn’t prevent me from purchasing CDs by each of those artists), but were more in the Springsteen/Neil Young/Van Morrison realm of music. Clearly, then, I was intrigued when I saw that Keep Austin Weird Fest co-headliners Deadman compare themselves to Neil Young and Van Morrison in their press release. This was a band I had to check out.
And, honestly, if those were the only two artists I liked, I would probably have been disappointed. They lack Young’s eclecticism or Morrison’s raw energy. As far as contemporary artists go, Deadman sound like they belong on the Railroad Revival Tour with Old Crow Medicine Show and Mumford and Sons. Yet, they’re a bit too jammy to be compared specifically to those groups. By that, I mean that they seem less concerned with hooks and the specifics of songwriting than with creating and sustaining some killer Americana grooves. I have to compare them most directly with The Band – a comparison they make easy by dropping a bit of “Life is a Carnival” into their live version of “If I Lay Down into the River” on 2010’s Live at the Saxon Pub, which is only one of many cuts on that record which tear the house down.
I’ve been streaming Live at the Saxon Pub all day on their website and I really love it. This isn’t a band that is necessarily pushing the envelope musically, but they craft songs rich with traditional lyrical and musical tropes that are kept vital through the group’s excellent musicianship. They sound like a band that revels in each others’ presence, and it’s easy to envision myself as an audience member doing the same. When they stretch out on a song like “Ain’t No Music,” it’s seems unfathomable that any fan of live instrumentation and the interaction of actual musicians could turn away. I’m excited to catch them in person at Keep Austin Weird Fest this weekend at 5:30 at the Long Center. If you can’t make it, check out the studio version of “Don’t Do This to Me” that we’ve included here, and buy the record.