Roots Vibes

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by Keith Hughes
It came as quite a shock to hear that Bloodshot Records, perhaps the world’s greatest independent record label has gone out of business. Or has it?
Sure they have “permanently closed” the “shitty little office” in Chicago and are only fulfilling mail orders within the USA – no overseas deliveries. Rumours are circulating that the label is up for sale?

Founding member Nan Warshaw asked if Rob Miller (head honcho and co founder) wanted to purchase her share in the business but he declined to do so. Reasons why this happened we won’t go into here but Oct 18 2021 was a sad sad day for fans of insurgent country music.
The Bloodshot artists roster has had some big names from the Americana/ Alt country genre. Ryan Adams, Alejandro Escovedo, Neko Case, Justin Townes Earle, Graham Parker, Wayne Hancock, Old 97’s. Some only put out one record. But it was the labels hard-core lifers that were really the heart of Bloodshot Records. The Waco Brothers, Meat Purveyors, Kelly Hogan, Scott H Biram. The infamous SXSW Yard Dog BBQ’s. More of which later.

I first came across the label when I took a punt on a cd described as Cash meets Clash, which was “Cowboy In Flames, by The Waco Brothers. What could go wrong? And it did what it said on the tin. A phrase the band themselves admit they have milked unmercifully and lived off for years but it is actually true. Country meets punk in a glorious way. Then not too long after that, It might have been 1999; Jumpin Hot put on a Sunday night Bloodshot Records “package tour” with Chris Mills Neko Case Kelly Hogan and the Waco Brothers. At the old Live Theatre before it was gussied up. The Bloodshot mission was blitz the UK on a shoestring budget with the bands loaning each other’s gear and backing each other. An oh so typical BS philosophy.
I recall standing at the bar when six rather burly chaps all dressed in black ordered whisky shots. Chinked glasses and downed them before elbowing me out of the way stepped up on the stage and blew the roof off. People were dancing on the tables by the end of the night. It was sadly the only time The Waco Brothers played in Newcastle

Perhaps its best to quote Bloodshot Records themselves , from a 2005 classic value for money compilation celebrating 11 years. They didn’t get it together for a 10-year celebration. Or maybe no one realised.“From the beginning, this has been, in many ways, a damned enterprise. We’ve always loved music that falls between the cracks of defined genres. Where punk and country and soul and pop and bluegrass and rock mix and mingle and mutate into fascinating sounds. We ignored it when people told us you shouldn’t do that and especially when they said you CAN’T do that. Contained on this cd are the tools to stand up to the shit life hands us everyday giving us a sound track that we can dance into the fires with a grin or grimace or hangover? With love in our tattered hearts and blood on our calloused hands we can throw ourselves into the arms of a stranger and dance until dawn

Over the years they have issued many heart-warming communiqués like this. But for me the lifeblood of BS will always be the legendary SXSW Friday afternoon BBQ’s behind Yard Dog Folk Art gallery in Austin Texas. Starting around noon and lasting for six or seven hours the cream of their roster would entertain you for free. Also they gave out unlimited free BEER. They also gave out tons of freebie merch (CDs, T shirts, bottle openers, work shirts etc.) and in the early days the BBQ was free too.
The Waco Brothers always brought the late afternoon to a rowdy conclusion (see video) after spending most of the afternoon in their “SXSW office”, actually the bar in Guero’s Mexican restaurant drinking margaritas.
Over the years we had PA malfunctions, drums getting knocked over, power cuts and one time a Austin Police Department cruiser came down the back lane and parked up watching the FUN. Fittingly Yard Dog moved from South Congress a couple of years ago and perhaps a little of the life blood of BS went as well. They will forever be interlinked by anyone who attended these shindigs. BS artist’s art was regularly featured in the lovely homely art gallery.

The legacy of course is the music and I strongly encourage everyone to check out the Bloodshot Records site, in case that goes too. As they used to say “Pour yourself a cold beverage, take a look around, we hope you like what you see

Like it? We bloody loved it. KEITH HUGHES

Editor – News has just emerged today that the label has been acquired by investment fund Exceleration Music. Well, it is the end then ……

Here’s a list of Artist’s from the Bloodshot label who have appeared at Jumpin Hot Club . Literally some of the best artist’s & shows wev’e ever had, through the decades.

Alejandro Escovedo, Andrew Bird, Barrence Whitfield and the Savages, The Bottle Rockets, The Deadstring Brothers, Freakwater, Justin Townes Earle, Kelly Hogan, Th’ Legendary Shack*Shakers, Luke Winslow-King, Lydia Loveless, Neko Case, Nora O’Connor, Paul Burch, Rico Bell, The Riptones, Robbie Fulks, Ryan Adams, The Sadies, Scott H. Biram , Waco Brothers, The Yayhoos.

We also have these  re-scheduled Bloodshot artist gigs, still to look forward too…. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers (Aug 26th @ Cluny2) & Vandoliers ( July 7th @ Cluny2)