CD Review of Starving Winter Report by Deadstring Brothers

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Starving Winter Report
starstarstarhalf starno star Label: Bloodshot Records
Released: 2006
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“When your head’s hitting the ground, when you’re picking gravel from your knees, when you’ve spent the night gathering up your clothes and your ‘Exile on Main Street’ and ‘Brown Album’ LPs she threw onto the lawn the night before, then you’re ready for the Deadstring Brothers.”

Of course there’s a chance that Bloodshot Records had never heard the songs within Starving Winter Report or recognized the profound impact a record like this could have on its generation when they crafted that advanced press release. Or maybe they knew exactly what they had on their hands and decided to tease the Americana public with what was about to roll off the production lines in Detroit.

Regardless, the Deadstring Brothers, once a mere two-piece, let the construction boot drop like a 40-pound sledge on this debut. Built mightily from the ground up, Starving Winter Report roars like a vintage T-bird, boasting throwback arrangements of piano, pedal steel, and brass atop twangy guitars and a craggy rhythm section. Detroit Rock City may never be the same, if Kurt Marschke and Masha Marjieh and their sultry sweet harmonies have anything to do with it.

At the risk of sponging from the most overused comparison in the history of album rock, it’s otherwise impossible not to reference Exile on Main Street when describing the bulk of this project. In fact, Marschke can’t be the least bit subtle about his staggering Mick Jagger impersonation. And I don’t mean just one or two songs! From the opening lines of “Toe the Line,” a swaggered-up roadhouse boogie, to the bleeding heart yearn of “Blindfolded,” this is the same early ‘70s Jagger, right down to the spine-tingling harmonizing that makes Exile and Goats Head Soup so instantly identifiable from most anything else in the Rolling Stones’ catalog.

The Stones aren’t the only association to be made, mind you. “Get Up Jake” is a frisky little number, all hopped up on piano and organ with tambourine to spare, that recalls the Band and Gram Parsons, if not Whiskeytown. In the same gin-soaked groove, “All Over Now” is a bruising rocker whose steel guitar softens the edges and damn near provides a third vocal.

These songs, every last one of them, fit so seamlessly together that Starving Winter Report might be better touted as a lone 39-minute track. To say it’s been years since a complete unknown has tipped the scales and registered a blockbuster like this is an understatement. Sharing a label with several albeit notables in the same alt-country class (My Morning Jacket, Old 97s, Bottle Rockets) seems appropriate, yet trivial. Why? Deadstring Brothers are on an entirely different level, an IPO that Bud Fox just whispered in your ear. Be wise and sell all your Rolling Stones, Inc to make room in the portfolio for the next big thing.

~Red Rocker