Texas bottle rocket Scott Hiram Biram is back with another offering of lo-fi folk blues and semi-acoustically-driven country punk with a raucous electric guitar for a dorsal fin. The Bad Testament finds Biram accentuating his normalcies—lovesick blues like “Red Wine” and the thumping trash of personal favorites “TrainWrecker” and the minute-and-a-half of fury that’s “Hit the River”. That’s not even mentioning the contemptuous minimalist gospel of “True Religion”, a scathing unforgettable country jangle called “Swift Driftin’”, and the perfect blues of “Feel So Wrong”. Biram is a filthy peacock in full bloom on this record, kicking ass and not even bothering to take names.
There’s a deep-dive into religious overtures that steers The Bad Testament. Anyone akin to Biram’s history knows the battle between good and evil residing within his chord progressions and lyrics. The man has tasted death, or at least spit in its face, after a head-on collision with a tractor and trailer back in late March of 2003 and was back on stage before most folks could swallow a cup of water. Oh yeah, and he recorded the gem that is the Rehabilitation Blues EP while recouping in his parents’ domicile.
Whatever happened that night resulted in Biram’s wildly perfect album that framed his nickname, The Dirty Old One Man Band, and the last of a handful of records on his label, KnuckleSandwich. The same record was subsequently released on Bloodshot a year later to kick start what’s been a match made in heaven ever since. Fast forward to 2017, and we’re on the cusp of this, his sixth full-length on Chicago’s record label mainstay.
The Bad Testament delivers in spades—everything a Scott H. Biram fan is pining for and then some. One to quell the blues and light your fire at the same time, all the while slowly unearthing Biram’s questioning and/or divulgence in religion and the surrounding beliefs and deities. Scott H Biram is here to tell you something that just may save your life, just as the tinny, fuzzy radio sample suggests kicking off album opener “Set Me Free”. By the first minute-and-a-half of the aforementioned, you’re flush with emotion and a genuine happiness to hear that miscreant and his perfectly sloppy yet pinpoint accurate guitar licks, like Muddy Waters and Ol’ Hank Williams had a bastard child with Pops Staples and they left him in a trail of dust at trailer park with a lukewarm six-pack to raise his self. He’s every bit the fantasy I just described with enough chops on basically every instrument with which to make a racket.
Biram tracked this long-player at his home studio in Austin, Texas. Albeit short on fancy, high-dollar recording equipment, Biram welcomes it. If it works and you can lay it down with proficiency, there’s little need for fancy electronics, soundboards, gadgets and gizmos. Guitar, keys, bass, drums, all things rhythmically battered on in a percussive manner, and literally harmonizing with himself are among a few of the “Dirty Ol’ One Man Band”’s tricks at the ready on The Bad Testament.
Long live dirty folk blues, greasy gospel, on a steady diet of Texas smoked rock ’n’ roll—succulent and rich, dry and dusty, hot and humid, can’t tell if it’s coming or going but the thump is infectious. Y’all stay dirty…
Originally posted at PopMatters 2/22/17