The Dead South
Photo: Kiriako Iatridis / Courtesy of Six Shooter Records

String Band The Dead South Transform “You Are My Sunshine” and “People Are Strange”

Canadian bluegrass band, the Dead South turn “You Are My Sunshine” into a mournful ode and “People Are Strange” into a science fiction fantasy.

Saskatchewan, Canada’s the Dead South are a four-piece string-driven band [Nate Hilts (vocals, guitar, mandolin), Scott Pringle (guitar, mandolin, vocals), Danny Kenyon (cello, vocals), and Colton Crawford (banjo)) known for their gothic (not Goth) takes on folk-style music. The quartet combine disciplined musicianship with a creepy sensibility that makes one go huh in the best sense of the word. What does it mean for Canadians to name themselves southern—they are from up north, and isn’t labeling the south dead insulting as well as morbid? Well, as that deceased Brit put it so many years ago, what’s in a name anyway. What matters is the music.

Relatedly, it’s usually a bad idea to insult your fans, but the Dead South have entitled their forthcoming double EP set Easy Listening for Jerks, Part I, and Part II. The name is obviously ironic, and presumably so is the reference to their audiences. The bluegrass cum punk stylings of the band aren’t what one would usually consider easy listening. The music is not soft and pleasant, nor is it even the opposite of such. Weird would be a better descriptive.

This can be gleaned from the two videos the Dead South have released in advance of the EPs (one from each): covers of the Doors’ hit single “People Are Strange” and the classic country tune “You Are My Sunshine”. The band restore the familiar songs to their eccentric roots. The original version of “People Are Strange” is now a staple of oldies radio where it blends in with all the other nostalgic hits from the past. It once stood out because its moodiness was not common in the popular music of the period. The Doors themselves were considered peculiar. Now one can buy T-shirts of Jim Morrison’s face in the Children’s Department at Kohl’s.

“You Are My Sunshine” has become a standard in the Great American Songbook. It has been covered more than 350 times by everyone from Marge Simpson on television to Ray Charles to Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash to the Screeching Weasels. The Dead South’s take is more somber than the others and comes across as a mournful hymn. It’s easily distinguished from previous versions. Taken together, these two videos reveal the range and depth of the Dead South and leave one waiting anxiously in anticipation of their future release.

The Dead South’s Easy Listening for Jerks, Part 1 releases on 4 March via Six Shooter Records.



FARGO, ND: Sanctuary, Jan 14 & 15
OMAHA, NE: Slowdown, Jan 16 & 17
IOWA CITY, IA: Englert Theatre, Jan 19 & 21
BLOOMINGTON, IL: Castle Theatre, Jan 22 & 23
NASHVILLE, TN: Exit/In: Jan 24 & 25
KEY WEST, FL: Mile 0 Fest, Jan 27 & 28
PENSACOLA, FL: Vinyl Music Hall, Jan 30 & 31
SAVANNAH, GA: Victory North, Feb 2 & 3
NEW ORLEANS, LA: House of Blues, Feb 4


ST. PETERSBURG, FL: Jannus Live, May 11
ORLANDO, FL: House of Blues, May 12 
ATLANTA, GA: Buckhead Theatre, May 13
CHARLOTTE, NC: Fillmore Charlotte, May 14
RALEIGH, NC: The Ritz, May 15
RICHMOND, VA: The National, May 17*
BOSTON, MA: House of Blues, May 18
ITHACA, NY: State Theatre, May 19*
PHILADELPHIA, PA: The Fillmore, May 20
NEW YORK, NY: Irving Plaza, May 21
*Not a Live Nation Date

Full tour dates and tickets here.