Personnel: Scott H. Biram (vocals, guitar, harmonica).
Additional personnel: The Weary Boys.
Taking the White Stripes' stripped-down duo approach one step backwards, Austin's Scott H. Biram is, as the title of this album indicates, a one-man show. Sure, there are plenty of solo blues and country players, but none who sound quite as plugged-in and driven as he does. His fourth album, and first for insurgent country label Bloodshot, comes after a near fatal car accident all but had him meeting his deceased blues heroes. He survived, and the near-death experience sure hasn't lessened the grinding, stomping, naked blues and country that Biram has been perfecting on his previous releases. If anything, it is now more relentless. The titles of those older albums -- Low-Fi Mojo and Preachin' and Hollerin' -- perfectly describe his unhinged, slightly demonic approach. Take the Legendary Shack Shakers and then add Dexter Romweber singing through his harp mike, and you're on the way to jumping on Biram's turbulent train. This disc mixes a few traditional tunes with originals, but there is nothing conventional about the punked-up style. Mostly electric, Biram unplugs briefly for "Wreck My Car" (not a reference to his own unfortunate events), a folksy but appropriately dark love tale that fits fine with the rest of the album. Even the spiritual tunes such as "I See the Light/What's His Name?" have a tenacious, almost antagonistic quality that makes the religious references secondary to their in-your-face intensity. Imagine ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons starting out in a garage and you have an indication of Biram's gruff, often cartoonish references to whiskey, truck driving, and "Blood, Sweat and Murder." He reprises the riff from "Tequila" in "Whiskey" but never bothers to give a writing credit, and follows it with a typically deranged version of "Muleskinner Blues" complete with fancy guitar picking and yodels that sound like they are emerging from the depths of hell. Two tracks feature the Weary Boys on unadorned accompaniment, adding mandolin and fiddle, but no percussion, to the mayhem. The closing three tracks are recorded on-stage, but that just adds audience participation to what seems like a live in the studio disc. Not for the meek, Biram's hardcore blues and country go down like cheap moonshine from a backwoods still. ~ Hal Horowitz