Just in time for the COVID-19 over run, apocalyptic mindset everyone is in, Scott H. Biram is kicking off his tour in Houston on Thursday, March 12 at the Continental Club. Biram’s songs of sinning and redemption should really add to the mood that the world might be heading to a close.
“I try to get in there to knead, like dough, knead the human condition and give people a reason to rejoice in some songs and give people a reason to relate on the bluesier stuff,” says Biram. “I consider myself more of a blues player than anything but I call it punk-blues and trucker-rock or depression era metal,’ he says.
He’s been at it as a one man band for over 20 years and shows no signs of slowing down, not even when his car collided head on with an 18 wheeler many years ago. Biram consistently swims in baptismal waters in his lyrics, but not without taking a little piss inside. His sound is a gravely gospel hymn booming with aggression and beauty.
“I don't consider myself an overly religious person or anything like that but I am a big fan of traditional music. All through my twenties I was constantly listening to old field recordings and traditional music, Smithsonian Folkways recordings and things like that. It all stuck with me and I'm glad it did,” says Biram.
In 2019 Biram released a split 7 inch with covers of “Monkey David Wine” and “Single Again” with his good pal and fellow Texas badass Jesse Dayton. His longtime label, Bloodshot Records, also put out a compilation of some of Biram’s older gospel tunes with the release of Sold Out to the Devil: A Collection of Gospel Cuts.
For Bloodshot’s 25 year anniversary they approached Biram with the concept of an album with gospel songs on one side and songs about sin on the other, but ultimately they decided to go for the full gospel experience from the Reverend.
“I like the idea of putting out the gospel record because it had quite a few songs that are from my self released records from before I got signed, that meant that they would get put on vinyl and world wide distribution. I feel like those songs also needed some love,” says Biram.
Sold Out to the Devil did see one of Biram’s songs, “Broadminded” from his 2003 release, Rehabilitation Blues get a new life in the studio with the help of bassist Chris Rhoades and drummer Justin Collins. Biram recorded Rehabilitation Blues while still on bed rest at his parents house in the Hill Country following his near fatal car crash.
Biram is in fact an ordained minister, but he does not throw around his title lightly and saw Sold Out to the Devil as a good excuse to use his full name, since many people consider his shows to be like church and often refer to him as the reverend anyway.
“I'm not a big fan of organized religion. If you listen to some of the lyrics in some of my other songs, you can tell I’m speaking out about it. When I was a little kid and they used to tell me that Jesus lived inside me, I was always afraid he was going to hang a picture on the wall and have to nail into the wall and it was going to hurt,” laughs Biram.
Seeing Biram live is a full body experience, hell the dirty one man band himself is just about having a conniption onstage as he plays a mean guitar all while stomping and hollering. “Sometimes it's the only exercise I get,” says Biram. His songs have a primitive appeal, tapping deep into the human psyche which Biram attributes to the “thumping beat in there, everybody can relate to a thumping beat.”
Biram plans on releasing his next studio album in just a few months. It is titled Fever Dreams and Biram describes his approach to his new album. “I say this about most of my records, it's a little different but it's a little of the same. I think I went a little bit in a different direction on the song arrangements this time, it still goes back and forth between the rock, blues, country and singer songwriter kind of stuff. This one is a little more polished.”
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“Polished” is not a word one would associate with Biram usually but he describes how he has evolved in his guitar playing and ability to record and produce sounds in his home studio. “This has been a journey, I've been recording music for 32 years and it's been a learning process the entire time,” says Biram.
“I like to learn how to make things nice, polished and sound well produced but I also like to find a good cross between well produced and lo-fi at the same time, which is an interesting adventure,” he adds.
Biram has been focusing on his sound since his younger days of playing punk and bluegrass music in bands. After touring with one of his bluegrass outfits, Biram knew he wanted to stay on the road. “I wanted to keep going so I kept pushing. I wanted to play in rock clubs and not coffee shops so I had to beef it up and make it something that wasn't just a guy on a stool and it seems like it worked out.”
Scott Biram will perform with D. Kosmo Thursday, March 12 at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, doors open at 9 p.m. $15-25