Bloodshot because they sucked down so much weed their lids slid south and worlds went weird where the music sounds better? Or Bloodshot because their eyeballs itched and watered in allergen-induced disgust for the green-lined pockets sucking the life out of major label artists? Or maybe Bloodshot because they stayed up like kids cramming for a final night after night, throwing down track after track (and drink after drink) to become one of the strongest independent alt-country record labels ever? Well, after releasing 100 records, doubling up on cocktails all the while, wouldn't your eyes be as red as a night out on the town too?
If you've missed the many, varied Bloodshot releases over the last decade or so and need a great taste of some of the best classic country-, country/western- and honky-tonk-inspired acts out there, the label's latest comp, a collection of singles, is just the giddy-up for you. Having signed Ryan Adams and Neko Case before the rest of the world discovered their unquestionable talent, Bloodshot can rightfully boast that it was the springboard for two of today's most successful alt-country artists. So of course they tossed a couple of songs by Adams and Case on the comp and why not? The comp also includes a helluva lot of covers.
The record opens with the galloping, upbeat sounds of the Waco Brothers covering Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come," a happy, rollicking song readying the listener for 17 more tracks of kick-back, feel-good back-porch listening. Bringing us down a notch with its evocative heartbreak edge, Ryan Adams' "Goodbye Honey" tugs at your emotions with a sad beat, crying harmonica and Adams' desperate croon. Neko Case & the Sadies give us classic hiccuping honky-tonk wails, simple, country riffs, and the perfect beats for line dancing with a cover of Loretta Lynn's "Rated X."
It's a toss-up which track on the record comes across as the most ridiculously silly, unexpected and unfitting. It's either Rex Hobart & the Misery Boys' rendition of Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" or the Meat Purveyors' "Madonna Trilogy," which includes their versions of "Like a Virgin," "Lucky Star" and "Burning Up." My only complaint about the comp is about the latter track, mostly because it feels so awkward and, although humorous, quite unpleasant triggering the kind of dissatisfaction where you squirm around on your chair and wrinkle up your nose going, "What the #@&%?"
The Poison cover is far more bearable and, interestingly, actually enjoyable to listen to while wondering what Bret Michael, in all his hairspray and shadow, would think of it. Andre Williams & 2 Star Tabernacle spew out an awesome cover of Hank Williams' "Ramblin' Man." An interesting vocal trade-off between a Hank sound-alike and a second singer's dark, gritty blues-style vocals takes the song to another level, far removed from the original. The Volebeats dish out a sluggish, hypnotic and melancholy all-instrumental rendition of George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars' "Maggot Brain," while Kelly Hogan & John Wesley Harding cover Conway Twitty's "It's Only Make Believe," which features massively powerful dual vocals, heart-wrenching melodies, and some delicate acoustic guitar. Punk's attitude and pace shine through on Moonshine Willy's version of XTC's "Alone," which races with an urgent, uptempo beat and raw, twangy guitar.
Don't tell me why they call themselves Bloodshot. I like to think that all their hard work and success is the result of being stoned-stupid and dog-gone-drunk. Wouldn't life be so much easier if such an approach brought out the best in you?