You’re not limited in choices when it comes to finding country and roots artists to populate your Halloween playlist, whether its acts that are almost entirely dedicated to making dark music like Those Poor Bastards, Lonesome Wyatt and the Holy Spooks, The Slow Poisoner, and Sons of Perdition, or artists that just dabble on the dark side, from legends like Johnny Cash, to more contemporary artists such as Colter Wall and Hank Williams III (see a playlist).
But there’s nothing else quite like the Bloody Jug Band. Completely dedicated to making dark roots music, and to the jug band concept with washboard, harmonica, mandolin, and yes, a jug comprising the foundation of their sound, they’re the Gothic roots band that defies the niche and seasonal appeal of such an act with the way they take creepy music, and somehow make it so unbelievably infectious and appealing, you will be listening and grooving to it all year long.
Originating out of Orlando, this eight-piece band first caught the ears of informed country and roots fans in 2012 when they released their debut album Coffin Up Blood. The damned thing was so good, it ended up being nominated for Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year. The Bloody Jug Band followed that up with 2015’s Rope Burn, and now have just released a new 6-song EP on Halloween Day 2020 called Stranded.
Songs of murder, madness, and eternal damnation have never sounded so fetching, almost anthemic in nature. It’s just such a crazy cross-pollination and juxtaposition of influences and unexpected sounds, you’re caught completely off guard and not exactly sure what you’re experiencing, but you can’t help but enjoy it. It’s so entertaining in the most unintuitive of ways, it’s outright diabolical.
Helmed by singer and washboard player Cragmire Pearce and his willing accomplice Stormy Jean, they growl and hiss about all manner of seedy and scary subject matter, while you bob your head to some of the catchiest melodies you can find in all of music. The guitar on this record is brilliant, and is really what sets it off. There are some solos here that will be the best you hear all year. Just the sheer overall quality of what is supposed to be obscure music from a local band is something to behold.
And yes there are songs about “Tommyknockers,” and demons, ghosts, and creatures “made in laboratories.” But this isn’t just the Disney rendition of Halloween and scary material. With songs like “Lac du Flambeau” and “Hell To Pay,” the Bloody Jug Band have stories to tell, and things to say.
Granted, some of this music maybe isn’t exactly what you would traditionally turn to for Halloween, because you expect spooky songs to all be set in minor chords and accompanied with gruesome sound effects and such. The Bloody Jug Band has those songs in their catalog too, and on this new record specifically like “Last Time” and “Hell To Pay.” But hell, you’ll probably find yourself favoring more of the bright-sounding stuff. Put it on at a party, and you’ll find everyone enjoying it like it’s the latest hit record, when in reality many of the songs are about monsters and manslaughter.
The Bloody Jug Band is just the most insane experience in the best of ways. It’s the Halloween band you never asked for, but can’t live without. Their entire catalog is worth a spin, starting with their debut record Coffin Up Blood. But this new EP adds multiple pieces to their unusual but remarkable repertoire of dark American roots music, making them one of the best of the subgenre, and underscoring how they’re spectacularly undervalued.
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