In the early 1970s, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards became buddies with ex-Byrd and country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons. Rootsy tunes like "Dead Flowers" and "Torn and Frayed" were inspired by Parsons, who toured with the Stones in England and hung around the studio while the band recorded Exile on Main Street. At the time there were rumors Parsons might even join the Stones, but instead he went the solo route. For anyone who’s ever wondered what such a collaboration might have sounded like—I give you the Deadstring Brothers. The Detroit band’s eponymous debut—full of rockin’ honky-tonk piano, churning distorted rhythm guitar, twangy pedal-steel and singer Kurt Marscheke’s impassioned Jagger-esque moans—might as well have been titled, Exile in the Gilded Palace of Sin.
With wistful, sad-eyed ballads ("27 Hours," "It takes Love," "Such a Crime") and guitar-fueled mid- to up-tempo rockers ("I’m Not a Stealer," "Entitled," "For a Time"), the album is more-than-solid all the way through; pound-for-pound one of the best roots-rock records of 2003. The band also includes a nicely-arranged version of an American folk classic, "The Long Black Veil," which recounts a tale of friendship, murder and adultery. They even hint at the Southern gothic vibe of 16 Horsepower on the haunting minor-key dirge, "I know You Dear." Having shared the bill with bands like Cat Power, Eleni Mandell, Jesse Malin, Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, and most recently Drive-By Truckers, Deadstring Brothers is a band to keep an eye on.