Scott H. Biram

Record review

Texas Platters

Scott H. Biram

Graveyard Shift (Bloodshot)

The yellow/orange sticker, usually an announcement toward the end of the liner notes, is here part of the album cover art: "This record sounds best when turned up LOUD!" A de rigueur suggestion, of course – not to mention erroneous – but that's hardly the print which matters most. "Produced," "all songs performed by," "all songs written by," "photos," "cover design": Scott H. Biram's fifth release is all Scott H. Biram, all of the time, save for a couple of ace assists. "The 'SHB Gospel Choir' is Scott H. Biram, suckers!!" cackles another credit. "Heh." Three local Biram releases, 2000-2003, testify no less DIY, but when an established indie label sponsors one man's creative totality, a Graveyard Shift can occur. While no less raw than last year's Bloodshot debut, The Dirty Old One Man Band, the scabrous soul of Graveyard Shift is forecast in its predecessor's "Wreck My Car" and "Sweet Thing," which pass for "ballads" in the no-fi din of Biram's stomp 'n holler. Graveyard Shift digs down deep into its crackling heart for sweeter meat (roadkill CD art!), Biram's voice and its tin-can-mic technique totally and completely disarming. "Lost Case of Being Found" ("it's like a handful of come-unwound"): Hank Williams meets Doug Sahm. Trucker's lament "18 Wheeler Fever" rolls on a walking bass line, Chili Cold Blood steel peddler Ethan Shaw, and Biram's lonely optimism. "Santa Fe" hauls like a traditional. On "Long Fingernail," Biram's pinched vocal recalls God's last hermit crab as he wonders, "Where the fuck are all the good times?" like a dried leaf looking for firewater. That's the Devil poking his shell with his/her best Howard Hughes manicure. Other highs include "No Way" turning a potential gospel dirge into an acoustic country jaunt, while Weary Boy Mario Matteoli's "Only Jesus" rises up Southern Baptist. It's not all white-line penitence, either. "Plow You Under" meters out murderous justice like a long lost ZZ Top demo. "Reefer Load" cruises fairly straight ahead, but Biram's raw delivery charges the entire album with a never-waning immediacy. With Graveyard Shift, Austin's Scott H. Biram graduates from student of Southern roots music to sanctified inhabitant and practitioner. The wholly integrated and harmonious commingling of gospel, blues, country, and punk equals the body of Christ from strum one, opener "Been Down Too Long" and its "Can I Get an Amen?" refrain, through to the death and desecration of closer "Church Babies." The message comes through loud and proud at ANY volume.

****

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