The fried chicken-eating, truck-wrestling, twisted metal, wild-assed, guitar-plucking, gray-whiskered, screaming and shouting, foot stomping “Dirty ‘Ol One Man Band” known as Scott H. Biram is back with a brand new album called Nothin’ But Blood from Bloodshot Records, and it’s a shoot-a-belt-of-whiskey and run-buck-wild-in-the-woods kind of good time, followed by the old-school repentance and cool-minded reflections of a Sunday morning. It’s all porch picking and domestic disputes, flashing cop lights and shack shows deep in the woods. Bury your no good woman with a shovel, and then sing a gospel song as the human soul pinballs between good and evil in the ever-restless struggle of a man baptized in the blood of his own sins.
Biram stands (well maybe innebriatingly-swaying) at the apex of artists that roll their punk influences in a dirty, spicy rub of Clarksdale, Mississippi blues, marinate them in a jerk of genuine Hill Country muddy water, and cook them over burning planks from the dilapidated shacks of what blues music once was. Add a little Texas twang, and what you have is something your cardiologist may not recommend for a heart healthy diet, but it’s one hell of a good time.
With a Scott H. Biram album, you know what you’re going to get. The Grammy Awards may not come calling, but he’s not going to lay an egg on your ass. The album starts off arguably with its best track, the foreboding “Slow and Easy” with its booming bass accentuations and grooving, moody sound. Nothin’ But Blood has some good singer-songwriter moments, like the sharply-written “Never Comin’ Home,” and though I want to question how much a soldier would want to return to the Far East because of the quality of their reefer, the sentiment of “Nam Weed” is still palpable.
Though the sub-genre most associated with Scott Biram is the punk blues showcased best in the rousing track “Only Whiskey,” Nothin’ But Blood‘s most hardcore moments almost trend more toward metal, like with the serrated edges of “Church Point Girls,” and the mostly-instrumental “Around The Bend” that also highlights Biram’s chicken-picking skills and his prowess as a tone monster. These tracks are almost like the death metal of dirty blues, with “Around The Bend” vying for the title as the album’s most bold, creative track.
There are many ghosts living underneath the skin of Scott H. Biram, and his ability to inhabit the many different souls of man in both his voice and style, and shape shift deftly between them from track to track, has always been a point of awe. But all the madness captured on Nothin’ But Blood is later absolved in three consecutive gospel tunes to finish the work off: “Amazing Grace,” “When I Die,” and “John The Revelator.”
Though there’s not really any scabs to pick at on Nothin’ But Blood aside from a few wonky moments in the timing that tends to be one of the signatures of a Biram recording, here some 11 albums into his career, a sameness has creeped into his music and the approach to where there’s nothing specifically wrong, but it may leave some long-term listeners wondering what else he’s got. Though every record is solid and consistent, it may be a little too consistent to keep certain ears attentive.
When looking at some of Biram’s contemporaries like Charlie Parr, who just put out an exclusively-instrumental and improvised album called Hollandale, or Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band that arguably put out his career’s best recently with Between The Ditches, and Possessed By Paul James who despite a similar solo approach to Biram was able to step it up with his last record There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely, there has been an evolution—a slow progress if not a sea change that allows the artist’s career and catalog to remain spicy. Though there are some new wrinkles here and there on Nothin’ But Blood, it still begs the question, where does Scott Biram go next?
But reinventing yourself can be a tricky business, and it is where a lot of music careers have gone down in flames. Maintaining a high level of quality for 15 years and over 11 releases is hard enough. But that’s what Scott H. Biram has risen out of a bloody river to accomplish with Nothin’ But Blood.
Good album cover, by the way.
1 3/4 of 2 guns up.
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