There are some mistakes in the articles, some judgements I won't follow, anyway it's just 2 articles about the record company which only makes mistakes (in some people's view)
From: June/July 2000 thirsty ear
A little more than five years ago, in the darkened, beer drenched booze joints of Chicago, a trio of Midwestern 20-somethings and an aging British punk god hatched plots of subversion. The Bloodshot Records insurgency spread like a prairie fire, chasing the thieves from the temple of our country music heritage, slicing Nashville's slimy corporate tentacles, toppling the golden calves of Garth Brooks and Shania Twain, and ushering in a nationwide hoedown of truth, justice, and free beer for all.
The Inside Story Of Insurgent Country
By Al Lovelock
Actually, none of that really happened. But in the relatively short time Bloodshot Records has operated, some damn fine music has come from the little label. What sets Bloodshot apart is a sense of subversiveness and anarchistic joy that permeates the music, the artwork, the press releases, the way the company itself is run. "I like it when a performer takes a familiar form and then fucks it up in their own personal way," says label cofounder Rob Miller. "I never want to be a label that just does strictly revivalist type music. I want our artists to bring something new to the table."
And it's quite a table in the Bloodshot stable. There's Alejandro Escovedo and his songs of ache and wee-hour wisdom; Robby Fulks, who can have you rolling on the floor with songs like "She Took A Lot Of Pills And Died" and "I Told Her Lies," then coldcock your heart with "Barely Human" or "I Just Want To Meet The Man"; then there are Kelly Hogan and Neko Case, strong female vocalists with a deep appreciation of oldtime country. Not to mention all those obscure little groups from around the country working the twang hoodoo in their own peculiar ways - the sultry, sexy, and slightly off-key vocals of Trailer Bride's Melissa Swingle; the stripped-down, old-timey sound of Split Lip Rayfield; the otherworldly rockabilly of The Blacks; the primitive skiffie blues of Devil In A Woodpile.
And, of course, there's The Mekons, at least in their extracurricular country pursuits: SallyTimms as "Cowboy Sally," Rico Bell as the king of The Snake Handlers, and especially Jon Langford, the unofficial genius-inresidence and poet-lariat of Bloodshot Records, whose side project, The Waco Brothers, best symbolizes the label's concept of "insurgent country." Langford moved to Chicago in the early '80s, about the time when Rob Miller, Nan Warshaw, and Eric Babcock (who has since left the Bloodshot fold) were working on a one-shot compilation album to document all the weird strains of punk-informed country, or country-informed punk, that seemed to be popping up all over the city.
Miller - who is not ashamed to admit that he became a Merle Haggard fan through the music of The Knitters in the '80s - met Warshaw through her gig as a disc jockey spinning Buck Owens and Johnny Cash records on "country night" at The Crash Palace, a Chicago punk bar. "Nan and I were sitting in this bar and he walks in, Jon Langford of The Mekons," Miller recalls. Aware of The Mekons' forays into country music in the mid '80s, they approached Langford about getting involved in the record. "I was way too bashful, but Nan isn't shy at all about that kind of thing," he says. So she introduced herself to the British punk bard and that encounter led not only to a song for the album --"Over The Cliff" by a band called Jon Langford's Hillbilly Lovechild--but also to an original essay for the liner notes and cover art in the form of Langford's painting, Game Of Cards.
The 17-song CD, For A Life of Sin: A Compilation of Insurpent Chicago Country, was released in '94. Among the participants were Robby Fulks, singing a politically incorrect ode to the "Cigarette State"
The Bottle Rockets, who later would become Freakwater; future label stalwarts Moonshine Willy and The Riptones; and frequent Bloodshot con
tributors, The Handsome Family. Grounding the project in authenticity and tradition were a couple of cuts by The Sundowners, an honest-to-god
hardcore honky-tonk band that has played in
Chicago since the '5Os.
"We threw that one out there with just 1,000 copies," Miller said of the first Bloodshot compilation. "We didn't intend it to become a full-time thing. We all kept our day jobs. But then we started getting letters from journalists, as well as bands from all over the country who said, 'We've got a similar scene in our town.' We accumulated a big pile of tapes from bands."
Many of those tapes were put to good use. "Our second compilation Hell-Bent, practically put itself together," Miller says. The collection released in April '95, included return appearances by The Bottle Rockets Fulks, Moonshine Willy, The Riptones, and Langford--this time with his newly formed Waco Brothers. But there was an impressive gaggle o newcomers as well, including singer-songwriter Richard Buckner; Texas honky-tonker Cornell Hurd; and The World Famous Blue Jays, veteran of the New York "rig rock" scene, in which Diesel Only Records was a precursor to Bloodshot. There were The Grievous Angels of Arizona The Volebeats from Michigan, San Francisco's Tarnation, and a fresh-face, outfit from Dallas called Old 97s. By the time the second album was released, Bloodshot Records had evolved into an ongoing concern. "We didn't set out to form a label in the first place," Miller says. "We didn't have a five-year plan, nothing like that." What they did have was a keen sense that they were onto something.
The mid '90s were a heady time for what became known as "alternative country." Heeding demands of a very vocal minority of listeners who considered modern country radio soulless and stifling, the radio trade publication Gavin invented a new radio format called Americana, which embraced new material from old masters like Johnny Cash and George Jones, country-influenced singer-songwriters like Robert Earle Keene and Lucinda Williams, and even a smattering from the new school of country rock. It was in '95 that music writers Peter Blackstock and Grant Aidel launched No Depression, a magazine dedicated to alternative country in which it wasn't unusual to find stories about Merle Haggard and Wanda Jacksol alongsideThe Honey Dogs and BR5-49.
There were those who thought alternative country was destined to be the next big thing, the successor to grunge. Some idiot even dreamed up the term "y'allternative" to describe the music. Hype notwithstanding there was no denying there was some kind of scene emerging. "When we started out there wasn't even the critical language to describe the type e music we were interested in," Miller says. "We were constantly explaining that our records had elements of country but were not really country records. For a while it seemed that every band out there was adding a banjo cut to their albums. The atmosphere got pretty claustrophobic for a little bit, but we never thought that every 18-year-old girl in the country would be driving around listening to The Waco Brothers," he chuckles.
Bloodshot initially lived hand-to-mouth, with sales of the current project determining when the next CD would be released. But as sales and exposure increased, so did the volume of Bloodshot products. The company has released more than 40 full-length CDs, plus about 20 smaller proiects: EPs, singles, seven-inch vinyl records. Last year Bloodshot branched out and established a subsidiary label, Bloodshot Revival, featuring previously unavailable radio performances of C&W greats. The first was by convicted murderer and late western-swing great Spade Cooley. Subsequent releases include the works of cowboy singer Rex Allen, Hank Thompson, and Pee Wee King. Upcoming Revival CDs include one by former Louisiana Governor Jimmmie Davis and an early-' 60s concert by Johnny Cash.
Though the company is growing, Bloodshot still maintains its downto-earth attitude. One of the company's unusual practices is hiring its musicians to do its media relations work -- "our welfare to work program," Miller jokes. For several months Kelly Hogan was the company's liaison to print journalists, making sure they got the latest CDs, setting up interviews, etc. Both Sally Timms and Neko Case did the same thing for radio stations.
"It's worked for us," Miller says. "You've got to realize as an employer that when you hire a musician, this job is not their top priority in life. You never want it to get in the way of their singing." Timms, who was at the Bloodshot offices "trying to shake them down for some money" the day I interviewed Miller, says she learned a lot about the music business during her nine-month stint as a Bloodshot radio publicist. "I think it was easier doing radio than print media," she says. "We weren't concerned with big commercial stations. Most of the stations I dealt with were college stations or community stations, plus AAA [Adult Album Alternative, which favors singer-songwriters] and Americana stations. It was kind of weird because when I was doing that I was wearing two hats -- a publicist and a performer." Did people tend to gush over her when they found out they were talking to the Sally Timms of The Mekons? "No, not really," she says. "I usually just said this is Sally from Bloodshot."
Meanwhile Miller has been working on Bloodshot's fifth anniversary double-CD package, Down To The Promised Land: 5Years of Bloodshot Records, which should be out by the time these words hit the stands. In addition to new material from all the current Bloodshot acts, the compilation features cuts by Giant Sand, Johnny Dowd, Ryan Adams and Caitlin Gary of Whiskeytown, Old 97s, Bare Jr., Albuquerque's Hazeldine, and many more. Most impressively, Graham Parker recorded a track for the compilation, a cover of The Waco Brothers' "See Willie Fly By" (Langford's dark, political rewrite of Bob Wills' "Take Me Back To Tulsa").
In the five years since Bloodshot's timely birth, the hype about alternative country has largely faded, and some pundits love to talk about its death as much as The Waco Brothers love singing "The Death Of Country Music." But Miller insists this is not bad news for Bloodshot. "Our sales are better than ever. We never were designed as a flavor-of-the-month thing. Roots music will always be around, and there will always be people who want to hear good roots-based music."/
From the Boston Phoenix:
Bloodshot's insurgent country
In Chicago, in 1993, the Smashing Pumpkins and Liz Phair were already as famous as they were going to be, and the city was cooling off as an alterna-rock destination. Although alternative country was beginning a national resurgence, Chicago's own bustling alterna-country scene wasn't getting much attention. Then, after scratching out plans on a cocktail napkin one night, Rob Miller, Nan Warshaw, and Eric Babcock scraped together a few thousand dollars and put out a 17-track sampler of local artists entitled For a Life of Sin: A Compilation of Chicago Insurgent Country Bands. Two more compilations followed (copies of all three are still available on line at bloodshotrecords.com). Bands who'd previously had nowhere to go started calling. Miller, Warshaw, and Babcock (who has since left), began signing them up, if only because they couldn't think of a good reason not to, and Bloodshot Records was born. "It started out as a complete vanity project," Miller remembers. "We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into."
by Allison Stewart
Five years after its official inception as a bona fide independent record label, Bloodshot is the world's leading purveyor of underground twang. In the intervening years, it has weathered the rise and fall of at least two media-hyped alterna-country movements and has outlived and out-prospered just about every other like-minded label. And Miller and Warshaw have gone from merely documenting an insurgent country scene to being one of its main focal points, an evolution exhaustively charted in the label's new two-disc compilation, Down to the Promised Land: Five Years of Bloodshot Records.
The compilation is a raw and rollicking, if occasionally mournful in that way that country music will always be, tour of the Bloodshot aesthetic -- a mixture of the kind of true country music that no longer has a home in Nashville, and the kind of roots rock that's equally indebted to the Ramones and Hank Williams, the Replacements and Jerry Lee Lewis. "It isn't a grand artistic statement, just an attempt to capture the spirit of our label," explains Miller. "We basically approached everyone we liked in the world and asked them to be on it." It's a testament to Bloodshot's enduring influence that almost no one said no.
The line-up is a who's who of insurgent country. Every Bloodshot artist is accounted for -- from Mekon veterans Jon Langford and Sally Timms to newer faces like Neko Case and Kelly Hogan -- along with bands who used to be on Bloodshot like the Old 97s, a rootsy Texas outfit who went on to sign a deal with Elektra. There are also a few bands who sound as if they ought to be Bloodshot artists, like Chicago's Handsome Family, a mournful rootsy trio who prefer the darker side of Americana.
But for all the attention accorded certain artists on Bloodshot's increasingly celebrated roster, the majority of the selections on Down to the Promised Land are from the label's lesser-known meat-and-potatoes acts. These are outfits you're more likely to find rockin' out at some anonymous roadhouse joint on a Saturday night than in the pages of Spin magazine: Devil in a Woodpile, Trailer Bride, the Riptones, Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys, unpretentious working bands who sling timeless honky-tonk for people who're too young to have experienced it the first time around but love it with a deep, earnest nostalgia anyway. Of course, the average Bloodshot act appeals to old-line country purists as well: this isn't Pavement-style country for ironic college kids but unglamorous, lunch-bucket country that's alternative only by default (i.e., because the Nashville establishment isn't interested in anything that sweats or twangs). The compilation's standout track is the uncharacteristically glossy power-pop/country confection "See Willy Fly By," a collaboration between two Brits who have adopted the US as their home and Americana as their muse: Graham Parker and Mekons frontman John Langford with his Waco Brothers. (Parker's affiliation with Bloodshot seems so natural, it's a wonder no one thought of it before now.)
The most telling track, though, is Robbie Fulks's mock-old-timy "Bloodshot's Turning Five," a not entirely affectionate recounting of the label's history: "They took the twang of a steel guitar/A little trendy left-wing jive/And they made a sound that the whole world loves/Now Bloodshot's turning five." Fulks's feelings here are famously mixed. Bloodshot helped establish the singer/songwriter, whose early records were among the first big releases the label issued. Then Fulks defected to Geffen, toned down his twang to make a middling pop-rock album (1998's Let's Kill Saturday Night) that pretty much stiffed, and ended up back on Bloodshot last year. In fact, the label is fast gaining a reputation as a fallback home for alterna-country heroes who haven't been able to make it on a larger label: Alejandro Escovedo landed on Bloodshot after his deal with Rykodisc soured, and Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adams jumped to Bloodshot for his soon-to-be-released solo record, Heartbreaker, after his deal with the Geffen imprint Outpost went south.
Bloodshot may welcome defectors with open arms, but insurgent country can be an exacting mistress, as Fulks will tell you. The label just passed on his newest album, telling the singer it wasn't "country" enough. Bloodshot's loyalty is to its aesthetic, not to its artists. "That's the limitation with Bloodshot," says Fulks. "They've figured out a niche, and they stick to it."
By not adapting, Bloodshot has survived. The label, which continues to recruit the majority of its acts from the still-thriving Chicago scene, has never wavered from its mandate to provide straightforward country without ostentation or irony -- you won't find, say, Ween's next country album here. "We get a lot of wink-wink demo tapes in the office, believe me," says Kelly Hogan, Bloodshot's former publicist, its unofficial den mother, and a rising star in her own right. "But to put stuff like that out would be sort of misleading your customers. To Bloodshot, it isn't just music, it's sort of a cause, too."
After years of uncertainty, Bloodshot appears more financially secure than ever, thanks to a string of recent successes, Neko Case's much-vaunted Furnace Room Lullaby and Hogan's collaboration with the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Beneath the Country Underdog, among them. The label recently moved out of its submarine-like space in Warshaw's cellar, an area so tiny it used to give Hogan panic attacks. But these folks still operate on a shoestring, with what little extra money they have going toward the promotion of an ever-expanding roster of artists. There are more good releases than there are label employees to flog them -- or, for that matter, fans to buy them. So Miller still has to work odd jobs, and he and Warshaw have been forced to limit their release schedule to less than one record a month.
Despite the pressure and the growth, Bloodshot employees, who relish their reputation as The Little Label That Did, are almost obscenely nice. The label still has the feel of a mom-and-pop operation; employees go out drinking with the bands (many of the employees are in the bands), and most everyone is awestruck when Escovedo comes into the office. And at a time when the alterna-country genre is showing signs of becoming moribund, Bloodshot continues to attract high-caliber talent. Most of the promising bands who came up during Bloodshot's early days have either moved on to other genres (Wilco, the Jayhawks) or become stuck in place (Son Volt). The Dallas-based Old 97s are the genre's best bad example: still Bloodshot's most famous alumni, they released one Bloodshot album that established their credibility (1996's Wreck Your Life) before moving on to Elektra during a short-lived alterna-country feeding frenzy. They haven't been as successful, or as interesting, since.
"Roots music has always had an ebb and flow, but I think it's become less of a curiosity now," Miller reflects. "At least these days there's more acceptance of the notion that country music isn't appalling."
These are indeed heady days for Bloodshot, which has not courted hipness but, thanks mostly to Case's rapid ascent, has had hipness thrust upon it. Even so, the label is less an agent of change than a haven from it, a place where genially retro washboard thumpers like Devil in a Woodpile will always find a home. Bloodshot has also launched a Revival series, unearthing previously unreleased offerings from neglected mid-century honky-tonk greats like Spade Cooley and Governor Jimmie Davis. It's still the most genially ragged label around, even if old-timers like Hogan bemoan the polish of some recent releases. "From [early signees] Scroat Belly to Alejandro Escovedo is sort of like going from Z to A, but this little cocktail umbrella of insurgent country has turned into a golf umbrella," Hogan figures. "It's like Rob always says, all this started with a cocktail napkin. Who knew?"
Bloodshot's Top Five
* Robbie Fulks, South Mouth (1997). Perhaps the label's defining release, and one of its all-time top sellers. A minor masterpiece of misery and acerbic wit, South Mouth includes the infamous anti-Nashville ode "Fuck This Town," and it positions Fulks as Bloodshot's answer to Elvis Costello.
* Alejandro Escovedo, Bourbonitis Blues (1999). A spindly orchestral country gem, this nine-song ode to binge drinking suggests a rebirth for Escovedo, a former member of Austin's groundbreaking True Believers, after years of wandering in the record-industry wilds.
* Neko Case and Her Boyfriends, Furnace Room Lullaby (2000). Case channels a more street-smart Patsy Cline on this ode to the beauty of heartbreak. Lullaby is Bloodshot's shiniest record, its most attention-getting, and its most irresistible.
* Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Salute the Majesty of Bob Wills (1998). Bloodshot's version of an all-star team, the Cosmonauts include John Langford, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, members of the Bottle Rockets, Edith Frost, and Alejandro Escovedo. Offered in posthumous homage to Bob Wills (whose daughter Rosetta gave her imprimatur to the project), this is a ragged, infinitely good-natured gem.
* Hank Thompson, Hank World: The Unissued World Transcriptions (1999). One of the most interesting offerings in the Revival series, this honky-tonk/swing classic includes Thompson's own liner notes.