Monday, August 28, 2006

Scott H. Biram - Graveyard Shift

I got this album pretty soon after it first came out last month, but I never had the will to take it out of my stereo, I just wanted to let it keep playing over and over. This is the second Bloodshot album by Austin-based "dirty old one man band" Scott H. Biram and his fifth album overall. Unlike his previous record (which I reviewed here), this record really is just him, singing lead and harmony vocals and playing all the instruments: guitars, harmonica, Hammond B3 organ, and a plethora of percussion and "random noise." He is only joined by another person for one track; Ethan Shaw of Chili Cold Blood and the Moonhangers plays steel guitar on "18 Wheeler Fever."

His previous album The Dirty Old One Man Band has a very live feel (not surprising since a good half of it are concert-recorded tracks) and features backing by the Weary Boys to round out the sound on several tracks. The other tracks only have Scott playing what he could conceivably play simultaneously: guitar, foot-pedal percussion, and harmonica or voice. I don't know if that album was recorded with or without overdubs, but Graveyard Shift doesn't have any pretense of avoiding them. This gives a much richer texture as electric and acoustic guitars intertwine, voice and harmonica overlay, and Hammond B3 provides a foundation for all sorts of stuff that definitely couldn't be played by the same person at the same time.

This record is rather morose, as is indicated by the title and the album art. Scott continues to work through his near-death experience in a head on collision with a semi. His deep ambivalence to death and spirituality is puzzling as it makes him hard to categorize. His frequent use of the gospel call and response form as well as calling out to Jesus both come off as neither sincere nor insincere. His use of religious musical forms certainly cannot be grouped with the so-called irony of current indie rock, but it also doesn't have a place within gospel.

While this album doesn't quite teeter precariously between Saturday night and Sunday morning (it's more Saturday night) the way Bob Wayne's Blood to Dust does, I feel that it further represents a revival of the ambivalent relationship between gospel and the blues that was so important in the formative years of what we have come to call country music and which has been somewhat lacking recently.

Scott H. Biram - Been Down Too Long

From Bloodshot
From Amazon

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