The Gospel According to Scott H. Biram: Nothin' But Blood
Photo courtesy of Bloodshot Records
The last time Rocks Off really caught up with Scott H. Biram, Austin's "Dirty Old One Man Band" helped us with our continuing mission to teach appropriate concert behavior to Houston audiences. We figured he was a good guy to ask because at the time (June 2011), he had just gone off on a fan via Facebook for being loud during a recent Memphis show, saying "if you don't like getting told to shut up at my shows...don't stand in front of the stage during quiet songs and talk about how often you wash your hair."
That's still good advice. Biram's extended list of behavior to avoid also included "throw beer or anything at me or my equipment," "clap along with no rhythm" and "steal merch and spill shit on the merch table." These days the 39-year-old singer-songwriter (who turns 40 next month) has a deep enough catalog that he's not quite sure what kind of crowd he'll see from night to night, he admits.
"I have a pretty eclectic fan base," Biram says. "So...one time it will be more of a listening-type [audience], people who are there to actually listen, or it will be like Seattle the other night, [which] bordered on a mosh pit the whole time. I didn't know you could mosh to country music until I started playing."
Either way, though, his fan base keeps growing. On the current tour that brings him to the Continental Club on Thursday, Biram says he's been playing to crowds of 450 or 500 each night, most of whom don't cause any trouble.
"There's only like one or two people getting kicked out a night, so that's pretty good," he says.
Biram's fourth album for Bloodshot Records, Nothin' But Blood, features him either about to be submerged in a river of blood or just coming up from immersion. The baptismal imagery is unmistakable, as is the implication of violence, but Biram says he tries not to take his own music too seriously.
"Like I've been saying on a lot of these interviews, I don't really think that deeply about this stuff except for when I'm getting interviewed," he chuckles. "I actually wind up learning more about it from doing interviews than what I put into it on my own."
Appropriately, many of Biram's songs, as well as his stage patter if he's on a roll, owe a serious debt to revival-style preaching -- real Pentacostal, Bible-thumping, speaking-in-tongues, snake-handling stuff. Although he says he doesn't follow any particular creed, Biram has become a master of creating his own kind of quasi-religious experience.
"I don't consider myself a Christian necessarily as much as I am a spiritual person," he says. "I don't really follow any organized religious rules or anything. But I do like the rejoicefulness that comes along with gospel music, like when you get the whole crowd chanting the words along with you.
"I'm not trying to brainwash anybody, because I'm pretty much against that kind of shit," continues Biram. "But I like the good feeling that comes out of it."
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Nothin' But Blood does carry a heavy gospel influence, on Biram's own "Gotta Get to Heaven" alongside the old spirituals "Amazing Grace" and "John the Revelator." But he also throws in Willie Dixon's "Back Door Man" -- which has been recorded by everyone from early British punks UK Subs to The Doors -- and Doc Watson's "I'm Troubled." Among his other originals, he nods to David Allan Coe on "Nam Weed" and Lightnin' Hopkins on "Slow & Easy." And as on his previous albums, Biram's songs grab hold and don't let go unless they're socking you right in the gut.
"The big picture with my music as a songwriter -- I've always gone for the human experience, the ups and downs of depression and rejoicefulness, and heightened with alcoholism and sobriety. I never go into a record with a real theme or idea, but I think this one kind of fell into place that way."
But the ballsiest and most brazen moments on Nothin' But Blood -- "Only Whiskey," "Around the Bend," "Church Point" -- also betray Biram's love of metal. It's a longtime van favorite, the hard-touring musician who usually does his own driving admits.
"I still listen to it," Biram says. "We were listening to Slayer, Megadeth, Pentagram and Venom, all kinds of stuff. But I'll be listening to that, and the next thing you know, Huey Lewis and Eddie Money. And then we'll have Waylon and Merle Haggard later."
Scott H. Biram plays Thursday with Whiskey Shivers and Larry & His Flask at the Continental Club, 3700 Main. Doors open at 9 p.m.
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