Bloodshot reissues a pair of gems

Thursday, November 19, 2009

As Chicago-based indie label Bloodshot Records celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, one can look back on its decade and a half and see what has made Bloodshot one of THE labels on alt-country (whatever that is).

Peruse Bloodshot's archives and you will find names like Old 97's, Ryan Adams, Neko Case, Alejandro Escovedo, Robbie Fulks and the Bottle Rockets. We're talking alt-country royalty here.

While many of these artists are now recording elsewhere, Tuesday's vinyl reissues of releases by Old 97's and Escovedo show that Bloodshot knows what it has in the archives -- some of the best music of the last 15 years.

In the case of the Old 97's, Bloodshot offers Wreck Your Life ... And Then Some: The Complete Bloodshot Recordings on four sides of vinyl.

The collection offers every song off of the band's two original Bloodshot releases, 1996's Wreck Your Life and 2000's Early Tracks. Add to this the selections "Cryin' But My Tears Are Far Away," "Making Love With You" and "I'd Be Lonesome," and we have, as promised, every track the band recorded for Bloodshot.

From Escovedo, we get another double LP, A Man Under the Influence Deluxe Bourbonitis Edition. As expected, it features all 11 tracks from his seminal record A Man Under the Influence, several more from Bourbonitis Blues and a number of other tracks from Excovedo's Bloodshot days.

For fans of either of these performers, these limited-edition releases should make for some fun items to own. None of the originals have previously been available on vinyl in the U.S., and the 7" singles are long out of print.

The tough part of it all is each release is available in a limited release of 1,000. If you miss this pressing, though, don't be discouraged. The originals are very much worth owning on CD.

My Spin:

Wreck Your Life ... And Then Some: A

The original record stands alone as one of the gems of 1990s. The 97's have always had a wonderful knack for mixing their distinctly Texas sound with an ability to absolutely rock. Songs like "Victoria," "The Other Shoe," "Big Brown Eyes" and "W-I-F-E" still stand out, 13 years later.

One of the hallmarks of this band, though, has been its ability to mix seemingly light-hearted songs with dark and lonesome ones. The second record explores this aspect much more, with lead singer Rhett Miller's "Cryin' Drunk" and "Ray Charles" and bassist Murry Hammond's haunting "Sound of Running."

Also, make special note of "Cryin' But My Tears Are Far Away," the band's collaboration with X and Knitters frontman John Doe.

A Man Under the Influence Deluxe Bourbonitis Edition: A-

I've long had a hard time deciding if Escovedo's true strength is in his ability to rock out or the vulnerability of his softer vocals. This record does little to resolve the issue, as he does both so well. The best-known song on this collection is "Castanets," a song discovered on President George W. Bush's playlist in 2005. The discovery led Escovedo to a self-imposed three-year ban on performing the song live.

But enough politics; this is good music, regardless of who likes it. By remastering and reissuing this music, Bloodshot has done music fans a favor. Happy Birthday, Bloodshot! Let's hope the next 15 years produce music this good.

Available in limited release of 1,000 each at

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