CD Reviews for 10/25/06 – Bloodshot Records Roundup

Compact Capsules for 10/25/06
by Dan Ferguson

Recent releases from Chicago-based indie Bloodshot Records occupy the Compact Capsules spotlight this week. If you’re a fan of the label, I highly recommend you make tracks to Brooklyn on Saturday, November 4 for the label’s annual daytime BBQ as part of the CMJ Music Confab happening in and around New York City that weekend. It all goes down at Union Pool located at 484 Union Ave (at Meeker) in Brooklyn. Festivities begin at high noon and continue until 7 PM. Featured performers are some of Bloodshot’s top guns, including Bobby Bare Jr., Scott H. Biram, Deadstring Brothers, the Silos, Mark Pickerel and in their final performance, the Meat Purveyors. Let’s dig in.

Bobby Bare Jr.
The Longest Meow
Bloodshot Records BS132

It’s a record album the making of which was akin to guerilla filmmaking, in other words one of those marathon sessions where no one goes home until the mission is complete. In this instance it was the making of the latest album from Bobby Bare, Jr. called The Longest Meow, which the accompanying press release informs, “11 songs, 11 people, 11 hours.” Joined by his Young Criminal’s Starvation League who for this album included members of bands like My Morning Jacket, …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead, Lambchop, and Clem Snide, it all went down during a lengthy day in a Nashville studio late last March. Be aware that Bare along with a few of his key music making buddies worked the kinks out of the material in the weeks leading up to THE session. Also take note that The Longest Meow checks in at a dozen tracks, though track one is all of a 25-second free form intro that drops right into the big crunch of the follow-up selection “The Heart Bionic”. To try to categorize The Longest Meow is darn near impossible. Then again, since leaving Sony Music and heading to indie Bloodshot Records for which The Longest Meow represents his third longplayer, Bare has been an artist who plays it as it moves him. Full-bore rockers, anti-commercial cosmic country, gorgeous love pop, and spare folk, The Longest Meow follows that track-to-track credo of unpredictability that has become Bare’s hallmark in recent years. The common thread through it all is the pop sensibility the underlies most all of his songs. In other words, it’s catchy stuff for lots of reasons. How else do you explain something as airy and beautiful as “Back to Blue” with its sweet Tex-Mex country undertones (oh those horns!) and the silly good time lounge antics of “Sticky Chemical” each possessing as much ear appeal as the punk rock roar of “Uh Wuh Oh”? Frankly speaking, ear appeal is all over The Longest Meow. It’s an album indicative of Bare being at a creative zenith where his golden touch makes the grooves feel so good. Recommended. (Bloodshot Records, 3039 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago, IL 60618, or

Bobby Bare, Jr appears at the Middle East in Boston on November 16.

Wayne Hancock
Bloodshot Records BS134

Much like the late and legendary swing king Bob Wills, modern day purveyor of the juke joint boogie sound Wayne “The Train” Hancock has always been a bandleader that gives his players plenty of room to roam. Not far removed from the egging on and call and response antics that the legendary Wills employed on both his recorded and live works, Hancock’s throwback approach is a breath of fresh air in this era of high tech and over-manufactured music making. Go back to his 1995 debut Thunderstorms and Neon Signs and you could swear you were in a surreal time warp where AM radio still prevailed. Of all his recordings since, this latest called Tulsa most resembles Hancock’s stellar first go-round. Like most all his releases, Tulsa is also produced by Lloyd Maines. It finds Hancock in his comfort zone mixing juke joint-ready swing tunes with all the juice of a hot Blue Norther with numbers as bluesy in all their jazzy provocativeness as beauts like “Drinkin’ Blues”, “Highway Bound”, and “This Lonely Night”. The players are a familiar bunch, Austin, Texas jive cats like guitarists Dave Biller, Paul Skelton and Eddie Biebel, steel guitar ace Eddie Rivers, trombonist Bob Stafford and clarinetist John Doyle, and doghouse bass ace Chris Darrell. They are all under the watchful guise of the Train, totally tapping into his throwback groove.

Wayne Hancock appears at the Bank Street Cafe in New London on Friday, October 27. Check out for information.

Various Artists DVD
Bloodied But Unbowed: Bloodshot Records’ Life In the Trenches
Bloodshot BS121

Founded in 1994, Bloodshot Records’ first venture into the DVD age comes up all aces. Cramming some 39 live performances divided between concert footage and documentary-like shorts, Bloodied But Unbowed: Bloodshot Records’ Life In the Trenches is a scrapbook-like look at the first dozen years of this relevant indie enterprise. If you’ve ever been to one of Bloodshot’s annual parties – Yard Dog at SXSW in Austin, CMJ at Union Pool in Brooklyn, etc – you know it’s always a riotous, free-flowing good time. Bloodied But Unbowed captures the rebel spirit that has made the Chicago-based operation the respected and still-standing outfit that it is. Featuring the likes of Ryan Adams, Old 97s, Detroit Cobras, Alejandro Escovedo, Waco Brothers, Deadstring Brothers, Bobby Bare Jr, Graham Parker, Wayne Hancock and many more, all I can say is stock the fridge with PBR, invite the pals over, stick Bloodied But Unbowed in the DVD player and rock.

Scott H. Biram
Graveyard Shift
Bloodshot BS131

The Meat Purveyors
Someday Soon Things Will Be Much Worse
Bloodshot BS130

Frenzied is one way to describe the sounds of these two Austin, Texas-based entities.

If you asked me a year ago to describe the music of one man wrecking crew Scott H. Biram, I’d have to say his minimalist approach landed smack dab between late West Virginia wild man Hasil Adkins and the primitive antics of the rockabilly/blues/garage duo Flat Duo Jets. That was before Biram’s latest release. Sure there’s enough manic guitar stomp to be found on Graveyard Shift, not too mention a battery of cuss words, to ignite any barroom. Yet, unlike past endeavors Biram also displays a “soft” side on this new longplayer. Songs of longing, be it for home (“Goin’ Home”) or a gal far away (“Santa Fe”), are awash in the sentimental, not to mention the melodic, side of the Biram psyche. To these ears, it all washes down real well.

For The Meat Purveyors, Someday Soon Things Will Be Much Worse doubles as the band’s newest release and sadly, its swan song. As the story goes, stand-up bass siren Cherilyn Dimond is making the move to New England and because this has always has been just a moonlighting affair for its four members, The Meat Purveyors have to decided to pack it in with Dimond’s departure. Someday Soon Things Will Be Much Worse is a worthy final blow for this band that has made it mark with wads of breakneck picking to go with songs of death, booze, and redemption. Ironically, this latest marks the band’s first departure from strictly bluegrass what with its foray into the realm of electric accompaniment. It’s a nice change of pace.

Scott H. Biram performs at Jake’s Bar & Grill in Providence on Sunday, November 5.

Wee Hairy Beasties
Animal Crackers
Bloodshot BS136

Children’s records are no stranger to the Bloodshot catalogue. The label dished out a pretty darn good compilation in 2002 called The Bottle Let Me Down: Songs for Bumpy Wagon Rides that related as much to the kiddies as the parents who don’t mind sucking on a tall one or two at playgroup. This latest dip into the kids music corral features the Wee Hairy Beasties, a group of Chicago-based rockers several of whom, like many of their ilk, ventured into the kid-bearing years after the years of playing the clubs. On Animal Crackers, The Wee Hairy Beasties (Jon Langford, Kelly Hogan, Sally Timms, and Rick Cookin’ Sherry) bring a keen eye and a subtle humor to their children’s sides espousing on everything from flies on your potatoes (“Flies On My Taters”) to Animal Crackers, to pet newts, to the glory of Glow Worm. It’s sweet and clever stuff, and a barrel of fun.

(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at [email protected].)