Al Scorch
Circle Round the Signs
Bloodshot Records, 2016

At this point, I don’t remember how long Bloodshot has been around blessing us with Alt-Country of every possible variety that you can imagine.  I do remember eating vegan dogs at the Bloodshot BBQs in New York during CMJ at the now defunct Brownies in the East Village to see many early legends, including Ryan Adams, with a rolled up farmer’s shirt and acoustic guitar, before his star shot into the stratosphere, and on South Congress in Austin during SXSW.  Those BBQs were legendary and I hope I am able to attend another in the future.

Al Scorch is new to me, and since I have a little time to kill and Bloodshot keeps sending me emails, I figured Scorch and Bloodshot deserved a review, or what passes for one from me in 2016.

“Insomnia” like its real-life counterpart, begins slowly, hoping for some peace, even when the sun comes up, speeding to find resolution at a frenetic pace, racing through the night to find medication that helps where none can be found, and finally exhausting itself days later.  In the midst of it all, a fiddle, drum, and acoustic guitar help us get there.  The tune is almost a visceral description for those that suffer from such a terrible malady.

“City Lullaby” while contradictory, brings peace, and the lyrics leave me with a vision of a cityscape of rushing ballets, at once tumultuous, chaotic, and melodic as it begins, racing, reaching a peaceful plateau to join hands in a waltz, and rising again to rest at the end of a day.  “Slipknot” isn’t so peaceful, but it is danceable, in spite of the morbid, celebratory, and vengeful job of the hangman who works for a state that doesn’t care.  It’s a dance to the death.  I love the melody, but I don’t like the visions.

Scorch has his heart and soul on Alt-Country, even in 2016 with lamentable inequality that has been rarely explored in Country, at least in my memory. In those rare instances that it has by Haggard, Parton, and Lynn, it is embraced and welcomed here, too. “Poverty Draft” is almost an acoustic symphony with lyrics ripping your soul out but not quite.  While he describes inequality in this country adequately, he doesn’t differentiate amongst the inequality of white patriarchy or institutional racism.  That would be a tune I would love to see him write and record. Melodically, it’s beautiful, however.

This may be the first label offering from Scorch and it’s a very listenable one.  Find it at or your local independent retailer.  Let’s stay out of the corporate behemoths unless you live nowhere near a record store.  Since that’s the case for me, I suspect others may be living in equivalent deserts as well.

8 May 2016

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