When Daft Punk’s Discovery was released in 2001, dancers from all genres leapt at the hits-heavy record. “One More Time,” “Digital Love” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”—all immediately satisfying singles that grab listeners and refuse to let go. However, the producers pushed all of these tracks towards the front of the album, causing the second half to not match up to the first. While Deadstring Brothers come from the Rock Planet, rather than from Planet Dance, the country/bluegrass band suffers from the complementary disease. Cannery Row is bottom-heavy, the first half being decent but boring alt-country rock until they rev it up for the second portion.
Much has been said about the Detroit band’s Rolling Stones blues and general ‘70s influence. Their sound is a pleasing one, tried and true twangy folk rock. But it is difficult to discern between static “Oh Me Oh My” and the unsurprising title track. With the exception of “It’s Morning Irene,” the initial five songs leave much to be desired. This track, which features an accordion, begins slow like its neighbors but develops into a foot-stomping good time, leaving listeners crying “Hallelujah!” along with singer Kurtis Marschke.
“Lucille’s Intro,” a 30-second intermediary banjo track, literally splits Cannery Row in half. “Lucille’s Honky Tonk” is exactly what it sounds like: whiskey spilling out your glass as you sway and kick at a rock n’ roll dive bar. But Deadstring Brothers are capable of more than a rippin’ good time: “Talkin’ With A Man In Montana” is a song in the storytelling tradition of country music. Marschke belts and croons this “c’est la vie” anthem like a Southern Bruce Springsteen over a symphony of piano, slide guitar and gospel-esque organ melodies. By the end of the record, listeners wonder why the album didn’t burst out of the gates with one of these soulful powerhouses. The fact of the matter is, Cannery Row, like most other albums, has some star songs and some forgettable ones. What makes Deadstring Brothers special, however, is their ability to kill it on the winners, cranking up the earnest country twang and letting their spirit sing.