Saturday, April 15, 2006

Scott H. Biram
Graveyard Shift
Bloodshot Records

[7/18/06 release date]

All I want in this creation,
A good lovin' woman and a long vacation.
-- Scott H. Biram, "Been Down Too Long"

The blurry cover of Scott H. Biram's new CD made me happy
at first. "Hey," I realized, "It's a fox!" I love foxes. In fact, I thought the cap-stealing canine [above left] in Grizzly Man almost stole the show from the big bears (and their bizarre human guardian). Then I took a closer look. Something is seriously wrong with this fox [below right]: Its eyes are bugged-out, its tongue is lolling on
the ground. Worse yet—its guts are exposed. It's roadkill.

As for the music, you could say Biram "exposes his guts" on his fifth full-length. Or to keep the analogy going, the Austin-based artist combin-
es gospel, country, and gut-
bucket blues. Influences in-
clude Hank Williams (he's
toured with his tattooed loveboy of a grandson),
Bill Monroe, and John Lee Hooker. He's also been compared to Iggy Pop (the Stooges) and Lemmy (Motörhead), but I think that has more to do with his famously raucous live gigs, although the final track, "Church Babies," does sound a little like Metallica...unplugged...on Mescaline...and bad Mexican food (it ends with a toilet flush).

Graveyard Shift also brings to mind Nick Cave, circa Tender Prey (which includes the classic "Mercy Seat"), and the late Hasil Adkins, while the press kit tosses out the descriptors "psychobil-
ly gospel" and "ultra-primal blues and rock-and-roll with a count-
ry heart." The CD booklet exclaims, "Scott H. Biram is a one man band!!" As such, it's tempting to compare him to early Billy Bragg, except they don't sound much alike and their approach to song-
writing—Biram's tunes revolve around sin and salvation, reefer, and truckers—have little in common. (Alas, Biram was hit by an 18-wheeler a few years ago and lost a portion of his, um, guts in the process. Otherwise, he made a full recovery). But I wouldn't
be surprised if Biram digs Woodie Guthrie, too.

Here's something else I learned from the CD notes, and I think it says a lot about Biram: "Dedicated to the memory of my best friend Steev 'The Sleev' Smith. Garage sales, BBQ joints, and firework stands all over the world miss your stench. RIP my brother." BBQ joints? Firework stands? If you haven't heard Biram before, you're probably wondering: Is this guy white trash?

Well, some folks—often of the pastiest ilk—consider that designation rather offensive, so I'll refrain from using it.
But I wouldn't be surprised if Biram describes himself as
such—with pride. And he does use the phrase in the title
track, i.e. "I'm a death dealin' creep in a white trash town,
my work starts up when the sun goes down."

For those keeping score at home, Biram's previous record-
ings include This Is Kingsbury? (2001), Preachin' and Holler-
in' (2002), Lo-Fi Mojo (2003), and The Dirty Old One Man Band
(2005), the first three self-released. His instrument of choice is
a 1959 Gibson hollow-body electric. He makes the most of it.
Other "instruments" include "CB radio, loudspeaker, breathing, harmonica, gut all acoustic and electric guitars, Hammond B3 organ, homemade footstomp board, hi-hat, tambourine, claps, hambone, Bible thump, special effects, random noises."

Of the three CDs Bloodshot has sent my way over the past few months—the others were Mark Pickerel's Snake in the Radio and the Bottle Rockets' Zoy-
—Graveyard Shift is my favorite. The phrase I keep coming back to is "shit kickin'." And I mean that in the best possible sense. On the artier side of the equation, you've got books like Cormac McCarthy's Outer Dark and movies like Tommy Lee Jones' The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. If you dig that kinda stuff—Sam Peckinpah, too—Biram is the musical equivalent.

Look out Devil you better step aside,
You ain't big enough to interrupt my stride.
-- Scott H. Biram, "Been Down Too Long"

Note: CD image from Bloodshot Records, Grizzly Man im-
age from Ruthless Reviews, Three Burials image from The
Big Screen Cinema Guide
, and Scott H. Biram poster image
from his official website, First Church of the Ultimate Fanaticism.

No comments: