OK… this one will generate some strong opinions.
The Dead South have been a popular topic here at Bluegrass Today of late. Their unorthodox approach to traditional Appalachian music forms has won them fans worldwide, and their live shows are notorious for the dynamism and energy they display on stage. Despite their unconventional sound, they have many fans in the bluegrass world who appreciate a different take, especially with their versions of songs from the old time canon on their latest project, Easy Listening For Jerks, Part 1.
Those include recent single releases for You Are My Sunshine and Will The Circle Be Unbroken. Our readers also enjoyed the first single from Easy Listening For Jerks, Part 2, People Are Strange, the band’s arrangement of Jim Morrison’s hit by The Doors in 1967. Just as Part 1 was an EP of songs from the bluegrass and old time music catalog, Part 2 takes a similar approach with pop and rock classics.
This week’s latest single from Part 2 is an extremely adventurous cover of Chop Suey, originally recorded by California heavy metal rockers, System of a Down. The song was a hit in 2001, though it has been viewed as controversial and was even banned from Clear Channel radio following the attacks of 9/11. But it remained extremely popular, especially through the music video which has more than a billion views on YouTube, and was nominated for a Grammy.
But political sensitivity is not the reason we suspect it will elicit intense reactions here. That comes from the fact that while The Dead South approach Chop Suey with their typical acoustic retinue (banjo, guitar, mandolin, cello), they retain the frenetic and aggressive sound of the original. The lead vocal from Nate Hilts pays more than just tribute to metal singers, and the music video utilizes the same sort of quick cut style as well.
Mandolinist Scott Pringle tells us that the guys have all been deeply affected by the music of System of a Down.
“It’s on the pre-show playlist, it’s on the green room pre-show playlist. All of System of a Down is on our pre-show playlists. They’re a big influence for sure. Especially for me, vocally more than anything. I’ve learned a lot from analyzing and listening to their vocal harmonies.”
Anyone who enjoys both bluegrass and heavy metal should find this track fascinating, as should those already familiar with the song, and it will be interesting to see if it taxes the patience of the more traditionally minded.
With that forewarning, check out Chop Suey from The Dead South.
With Hilts on guitar and Pringle on mandolin, The Dead South is completed with Danny Kenyon on cello and Colton Crawford on banjo. They will be on tour in the UK and France later this month, and will return to shows in the US in May.
Chop Suey and the complete Easy Listening For Jerks, Parts 1 & 2, are available from popular download and streaming services online. They can be purchased on either CD or vinyl directly from the band store.