Country-rock band the Deadstring Brothers return to Memphis on Wednesday at the art space 430 N. Cleveland for a show produced by the Hi-Tone Café, which hopes to open down the block soon.
The gig is no big surprise since frontman Kurt Marschke has been a relatively steady presence in town since relocating to Nashville from his native Detroit a little more than three years ago. What is surprising is the lengths to which the band, one of the bigger acts on the esteemed Chicago-based Americana label Bloodshot Records, is going to fill the other dates on its calendar.
“Our mission is to play every night,” says Marschke, calling from the road somewhere between Toledo, Ohio, and Fort Wayne, Ind. “Sometimes, it’s hard to finds places that will have
music on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, but we manage to wrangle them up somehow. We carry a little PA with us, and sometimes if we have a night off and it’s too far away to drive home, we’ll look for the bar that looks like the dive in town and we’ll go in and ask, ‘Hey, do you want a band to come in and play for tips tonight?’ We’ll just do two hours of country covers. We call it ‘the jam-bush.’”
The regimen of constant gigging is part of the Deadstring Brothers’ new “two-year plan,” which kicked into high gear last month with the release of the band’s fifth album, Cannery Row.
Marschke started the Deadstring Brothers in Detroit in 2001, and the group became, along with their friends in the outlaw country outfit Whitey Morgan & the 78s, the nexus of a little roots-music scene there that drew more on Southern traditions than those of the Rust Belt.
“You don’t realize that there’s a lot of people there that do listen to country music and do love Southern music and do love just American music,” Marschke says. “You think of Detroit as Motown, funk, soul and R&B, and hard rock and the garage movement. The thing we kind of introduced is that this was part of the tapestry as well. You had all these transplants from the South who brought Southern music up to Detroit.”
Working with a revolving lineup of musicians, Marschke recorded four Deadstring Brothers albums up north before relocating to Nashville shortly before the release of 2010’s São Paulo. The move was motivated by a desire to find a more musically conducive atmosphere both geographically and culturally.
“Nashville is so centrally located; it makes touring very easy,” Marschke says. “And the music community is so busy and active. You kind of feel like you’re in your element when you’re in a community like that.”
Marschke moved into a loft in Nashville’s Cannery Row district and threw himself into the city’s music scene. He began playing solo gigs around town and met many of the musicians — including ace session players Pete Finney and Mike Webb, Willie Nelson harmonica player Mickey Raphael, and drummer Brad Pemberton of Ryan Adams’ band the Cardinals — who would end up playing on Cannery Row.
At the time, though, Marschke wasn’t sure there would be a new album.
“I was doing a one-man-band thing, and I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to do a band again,” he says. That changed when his friend, bassist JD Mack, left Morgan’s band and came to Marschke about starting up again. “We’re such good friends that I figure if there was anybody I could trust to be in a band, it would be him.”
With its wealth of Nashville A-listers, Cannery Row feels like Deadstring Brothers’ most country release to date.
“I don’t think that record would have been possible in Detroit because the players in Nashville are so used to doing that stuff,” he says. “The whole method was so different. All the other records I had my own recording studio and took my time and putzed around and produced them and did demos and preproduction on songs. This was just write songs and go in with all these brilliant players and record a record.”
The Deadstring Brothers with Adam Faucett and the Tall Grass
8 p.m. Wednesday, 430 N. Cleveland. $8 cover. For more information, visit hitonememphis.com.