Scott H. Biram, Nothin’ But Blood and The First Church of the Ultimate Fanaticism
by Mat Weir
Dubbed “The Dirty Old One Man Band,” Scott H.Biram was born in Lockhart, Texas, graduated from Texas State University with a BA in Fine Arts, and spent his early years playing in a punk band (The Thangs) and two bluegrass ensembles (Bluegrass Drive-by/Scott Biram & the Salt Peter Boys) before branching out on his own. Influenced by artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Doc Watson and Leadbelly, Biram created a sound purely his own by combining punk-inspired electric blues with rural country/gospel. He even built his own electric, bass drum kick box which he channels directly into a venue’s sound system.
In 2000 he released his first album, This is Kingsbury, on his independent label, KnuckleSandwich Records. He would release a second album in 2002, before being crushed in a head-on collision with a semi-truck. If there are guardian angels, Biram’s was working overtime (which I’m sure happens often) and the man survived with crushed limbs and feet, internal injuries and an entire FOOT of his lower intestine removed. After such a horrific accident, Biram knew there was only one thing to do.
“I played a show a week after I got out of the hospital in a wheelchair with an IV in my arm just to show everybody I was still gonna do this shit,” he claimed. Then went on to write his Recovery Blues EP.
Why? Because Scott H. Biram is one badass motherfucker. Two more albums later, Bloodshot Records signed him to their label and he’s stayed there since 2005.
I was first introduced to Biram in 2011, through a drinking buddy at the Catalyst. We agreed on plenty of things and were both as interested in any topic that came up the bar’s stairs, plus he could throw back several rounds of shots & beers with a no-fucks-given attitude. However, we always ended up back on music. He was a man whose taste I could trust, an honor earned by few because goddamn it, I have great fucking taste.
So when I was told to check out Scott’s latest that year, Bad Ingredients, I had no problem buying it without bothering to look it up online first. Plus it came on limited, blood red vinyl. As usual, my drinking buddy was spot-on, and we joined the rest of the Catalyst employees in watching Biram play in the Atrium a month later.
This year, Biram dropped his eighth full-length, Nothin’ But Blood, a title he even admitted to the Austin Chronicle, “is a good name for a really heavy album, which this didn’t turn out to be, so now it’s just a confusing title and I like it.” I think his description is accurate—it’s far less directly heavy as Bad Ingredients, an album filled with distortion and vocals recorded through a bullhorn. Blood’s opening track, “Slow & Easy,” immediately sets the tone of sin and redemption bearing maturity with crisp vocals and clean production. The second song, “Gotta Get to Heaven” continues the trend mixed with contagiously light, southern rock music ala Lynyrd Skynyrd. While track three, “Alcohol Blues,” returns Biram to his electrified blues roots and familiar story telling about drinking to forget a cheatin’ lover, it’s one of the four balls-to-the-wall tracks on the album and still plays cleaner than anything on his previous release.
2014 has been a great year for releases so far and I keep finding myself writing these next words: this is one of my favorite albums so far. While keeping one foot in familiar territory, Nothin’ But Blood finds Biram exploring a wider variety of sound, maturing in his songwriting and revisiting his earliest inspirations. Songs like “Nam Weed” and “Jack of Diamonds” show him wearing his blues heroes on his sleeve and he even covers Howlin’ Wolf’s, “Backdoor Man.”
On a final note, I’ve seen him perform twice and I’m telling you now, you won’t find another artist you never heard of like him. Whether you know the music or not, his mix of styles and guitars with his friendly, Southern hospitality and bash-you-over-the-head-with-a-bottle-if-you-give-him-shit attitude makes everyone in the audience, EVERYONE, dance, hoot, holler and drink one more round. Always searching for the ultimate Truth, the music is as thick as the air; filled with loose women, heartbreak, alcohol, guilt, redemption and the never-ending search for a little bit of love in all the wrong places. His fan base is known as “The First Church of the Ultimate Fanaticism” for good reason. If ever there was a modern day prophet for the South, Scott H. Biram has been baptized in the blood of this lecherous life; he’s here for your sins and to teach you a couple more.
— Mat Weir