There’s something familiar about Cannery Row, the latest from Detroit’s Deadstring Brothers — and that’s not meant as a slight. The harmonies of Kurt Marschke and Kim Collins remind you of duets past à la Gram and Emmylou, or those wonderful Whiskeytown moments of Ryan Adams and Caitlin Cary. The steel guitar and Dobro of Pete Finney bring to mind American Beauty Jerry Garcia, and the entire record seems as if it was made in the ’70s. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
This is the band’s fourth record, and it varies between up-tempo rockers such as “Long Lonely Ride” and the acoustic country stomp of “Lucille’s Honky Tonk.” Finney does a great pedal steel part that reminds you of the late great Sneaky Pete Kleinow on the Burrito Brothers’ Gilded Palace of Sin that meshes perfectly with Marschke’s Hank Williams yodel. “The Mansion” sounds like a Neil Young outtake, with nice harmonica work from Willie Nelson’s Mickey Raphael.
If the Deadstring Brothers were content to simply rehash their record collections, then Cannery Row wouldn’t have the impact that it achieves. But instead of slavishly copying their heroes, they use them as starting points — and it works. This is a band to watch.