July 8, 2011
He was one half of The Ding Dongs with Mark “BBQ” Sultan, playing lo-fi, trashy rockabilly. Then he made some curry-flavored rockabilly slop with Sultan’s former partner King Khan in a snazzy duo called The Tandoori Knights.
And now the Montreal maniac known as Bloodshot Bill is once again turning his attention to his solo career. He’s back with an album called Thunder and Lightning.
BB mostly performs as a one-man band. He is always getting himself compared with the likes of Hasil Adkins and Charlie Feathers (he’s got the Feathers hiccup nailed). But a word of caution here: listening to Bloodshot Bill could compromise your patriotism. Nearly five years ago, he got himself banned from entering these United States.
No, it wasn’t drugs, violence, or insurrection. Supposedly he was caught trying to “smuggle” merchandise — I believe it was his “Bloodshot Bill Nice ’n’ Greasy” hair pomade — he was planning on selling at his shows. His website measures the exact amount of time before he can re-enter the land of the free and home of the brave. (As I post this, it’s 125 days, 0 hours, 5 minutes, and 51 seconds.)
Thunder and Lightning is 14 songs, mostly originals, in which BB sings of lost loves, good and bad. Like his recent work with The Ding Dongs and Tandoori Knights, the recording is inspiringly lo-fi, sounding like scratchy old 45s from long- forgotten labels — like it’s recorded in mono. Unlike the new generation of “psychobillies,” BB is basically a traditionalist. No metal riffs, no songs about zombies, Satan, or werewolves. In some ways, he’s the heir to the late Ray Condo, a fellow Canuckabilly.
Some instant favorites here include “Puppy Dog Love,” which, as BB says, isn’t as corny as the title suggests. Then there’s “Hang in There,” which is what the Allman Brothers’ “One Way Out” might have sounded like had it been recorded at Sun Studio in 1955. Meanwhile, on “Old Moon,” Bloodshot’s voice doesn’t sound anything like Johnny Cash’s, but the chunka-chunka beat will remind you of the music of the Tennessee Two.
While most of the songs on this album are loud and fast, Bill can also go low and slow. “Dark Lonely Street,” an Eddie Cochran cover, is nothing short of lovely. The title of “Crazy Party” might suggest a wild romp, but this one is a countryish lament. The craziest thing about it is BB’s weird laugh at the end of the bridges.
Thunder and Lighting is available on vinyl from Norton Records and as an MP3 download at the usual places.
I wrote a column about Shooter Jennings and his effort to create a new genre or subgenre or some kind of musical classification called XXX Country. XXX is supposed to be for artists who are “too country for rock, too rock for country.” Don’t expect to find Donny and Marie here.
In case you’re still not quite sure what kind of music this is, Jennings has begun compiling songs by several of his favorite artists and making them available as free downloads. The first volume came out this week.
There is a good mixture of artists you’ll probably recognize — the Drive-By Truckers, Jimbo Mathus, and Shooter himself — as well as several who are well worth discovering, such as Robert Earl Reed, a Mississippi songster whose slow-burning “Road to Hattiesburg,” co-produced by Mathus, kicks off the album with a Southern gothic vibe.
The Truckers contributed “Used to Be a Cop,” a seven-minute saga about a former law-enforcement officer with severe anger- management issues, from their latest album, . Mathus, whose Confederate Buddha I reviewed here a few weeks ago, is represented with a sweet Stonesy ballad called “Skateland Baby,” an old song from an album called Knockdown South. Jennings’ song is a new one, “Southern Family Anthem,” about a proud hillbilly clan. “We may be trash but we’re a family” is the defiant refrain.
Rachel Brooke, one of my favorite newer country artists, whose music I just learned about this year, is here. Her song “City of Shame” — which, like many Brooke songs, sounds sweet though with a dark underbelly — is also found on her excellent album Down in the Barnyard. Her Farmageddon Records labelmate Slackeye Slim does a Mexican-flavored tune called “Introducing Drake Savage.” I can almost hear Calexico doing this one.
“Road Bound” by Bob Wayne is a bluegrass-colored rocker that reminds me of “Rainwater Bottle” by Taos resident Chipper Thompson — though Chipper doesn’t cuss as much as Wayne does, at least on his records.
Somewhat more traditional outlaw-country tunes here include Hellbound Glory’s “Rusted Up Old Pickup Trucks,” “I’m Bitter” (a good-natured song of negativity by Southern boys J.B. Beverley and Ronnie Hymes), and the sweet, nostalgic “Carolina Sunshine” by Cincinnati singer Dallas Moore, with Willie Nelson’s guitarist Jody Payne.
So no excuses. This album’s free! Get yourself over to the XXX website. The second volume is already in the works, and word is Española’s favorite gonzo roots band, The Imperial Rooster, is on it.
UPDATE: This column has been corrected to show that the band Fifth on the Floor is not from Chicago, but Lexington, Ky.