Scott H Biram “The One and Only Scott H Biram”

Bloodshot Records, 2024

Unfiltered variety of heavy metal, quasi-punk and country folk roots music remains the name of the game for this one-off maverick.

'The One and Only Scott H Biram' cover artTexan native Scott H Biram is a one-man band and a musical force field, a one-off maverick whose musical journey resembles Doug Sahm or Lincoln Durham (a Ray Wylie Hubbard protégé). He happens to be an excellent guitarist whether on screaming electric, dirty blues or beautifully picked acoustic guitar.

‘The One and Only Scott H Biram’ is his thirteenth album and continues a run of recordings which contain an amalgam of song styles in which he sings unsentimentally in voices ranging from Sex Pistols-era punk, heavy metal, hysterical rock’n’roll, historical blues, and surprisingly gentle folk. All of these styles are featured on this potpourri of Americana music.  Leadbelly on the one hand, and Slayer on the other are formative influences.

Biram became a one-man band after spells with a punk band and, surprisingly, a couple of bluegrass groups. He released 5 albums independently before signing with Bloodshot Records in 2005, a development that might never have happened after a serious head-on crash with an 18-Wheeler nearly killed him in 2003,  although he was back on stage within a month (all pinned together).

There is no apparent filter on the way he sings, what he sings (tracks littered with foul language) or how he records it (tracks littered with distorted guitars, and bits of unspeakable sounds as if it were a CB radio). It does not seem possible to rein him in, but the overall effect is exciting, haunting, atmospheric and raw.  Previous album titles speak to the overall feel of his albums – ‘The Dirty Old One Man Band’, ‘Graveyard Shift’, ‘Nothin’ but Blood’ or ‘Fever Dreams’ – whereas the new one seems to imply a toning down, after four years occasioned by COVID restrictions. But fear not, the on-button has not been  pressed on the filter!

Tearing into the opening track ‘No Man’s Land’, a rip-roaring rocker about the what goes on when you grow up poor in a small Texan town, with distorted guitar, a stinging electric solo, some Duane Eddy-like rhythm guitar, bad language and a rather sad tale.  ‘High and Dry’ starts with a spoken narrative and then bluesy acoustic guitar sits behind the song about the travails of living poor in Nowhere, Arizona. ‘Easy Rider’ is the aforementioned Leadbelly cover– wailing harmonica reflects the sad tale of a frustrated relationship.  There’s a degree of anger in songs like ‘Given’ up on Man’ and ‘Rather be High’ with their tortured vocals, fuzzed-up guitars and unforgiving lyrics – “Unhinged, and broken  Angry, and so obscene  Destroy the future of the coward You see your life-blood soakin’ through it’s very seams”  from the former  or “I’d rather be crucified than to be denied  Can’t you see that the modern way’s  just a waste of my time?”  from the latter. ‘Sinner’s Dinner’ is another angry song, inspired by the events of January 6, 2021. ‘Inter Transmissions’ is a one and half minute blast of distorted sound, echoes and wordless vocals.

On the other hand, there is the sad tale of past love  ‘I’ll still miss Ruby in the Morning’ with its lovely acoustic guitar and the atmospheric slow blues ‘Inside a Bar’, reflections of past times from a lonely alcoholic haze. And the album ends with the other blues cover, a beautiful rendition of Rev Gary Davis’s extraordinary ‘Death has no mercy’, sung a la Odetta, an observation on the intermittent inevitability of death.

Biram is not aiming particularly for commercial recognition (though one assumes that would be nice).  He is just his own man wanting to get his ideas out to the world – he sings of what he has experienced, or what he has observed. His live shows are apparently something to behold, with a range of guitars, and cable connections from them to all sorts of fuzzy amps, and some percussion tools. Biram has described his albums as a collage, with no specific theme lyrically or sonically.  If that is to your liking, you will find lots to enjoy on this very interesting release.

7/10
7/10

About FredArnold 59 Articles
Lifelong fan of predominantly US (and Canadian) country roots music. Previously an avid concert-goer before wives, kids and dogs got in the way- and although I still try to get to several, my preference for small independent venues often means standing, and that ain't too good for my ancient bones!! Still, a healthy and catholic music collection helps ease the pain
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