Nothin’ But Blood
Bloodshot Records

Scott H. Biram has always specialized in capturing the black, tortured depths of the human soul. And true to form, the aptly titled Nothin’ But Blood, Biram’s ninth studio album (and fifth with the prominent Americana label Bloodshot Records), is full to the brim with twisted and unsettling tales of human depravity. “Alcohol Blues,” a gritty up-tempo Texas blues song with plenty of obscenities, will no doubt be a fan favorite and live staple. Ditto “Only Whiskey,” a distortion-filled love ballad to the brown liquor, and “Backdoor Man,” a purposefully creepy take on the Howlin’ Wolf classic. This unerring thematic consistency, however, may also be Biram’s Achilles heel: no matter how good he is at doing what he does best, his stubborn resistance to change ultimately yields diminishing returns. To his credit, there are a few intriguing, if all too fleeting, glimpses here of what he can do when he steps outside of his comfort zone, as he does in the heartbreakingly honest opening track, “Slow & Easy,” and the wonderfully lonesome ballad, “Never Comin’ Home.” And the way he recreates the magic behind the fantastic traditional folk songs “Jack of Diamonds” and “I’m Troubled” is a mark of true artistry. Ultimately, though, there’s just not enough of that magic in Nothin’ But Blood to satisfying counterbalance the buckets of all-too-familiar outrageousness. The latter may be what most Biram fans have come to expect and crave from him, but more heart and less blood would make for a hell of a bigger statement next time out. — DALLAS TERRY

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