REVIEW: Scott H. Biram takes you to church (sort of) on his new collection of gospel songs


Scott H. Biram is known as “the dirty one-man band”, and if you’re familiar with him at all, you know how fitting that moniker is for him. He plays a dirty style of blues that makes you look for the nearest moonshine jug. But what if Scott H. Biram cleaned up – so to speak? He does some sort of cleaning up on his latest album Sold Out to the Devil:  A Collection of Cuts by The Rev. Scott H. Biram. Not necessarily in his sound, but in his subject matter on this collection of gospel songs.

The album kicks off with “Get me Religion (Preachin’ Blues)”, a song that has been recorded by a variety of blues artists like Son House. Biram makes the song his own with a trashy blues guitar sound and a rhythm that sounds like it’s being kept on an old suitcase.

“John the Revelator” is another classic blues song that Biram interprets on the album. Granted you’ve probably heard countless versions of this song, but he makes it his own with some grungy slide guitar and lead vocals that are growled more than sung. Jesse Vain provides additional vocals on this song to give it a call-and-response-feel.

It’s not likely that you would ever hear these versions in a church. However, plenty of them are infused with the spirit that you are likely to find in some churches. “True Religion” is a good example. This is an a capella tune that features only vocals, tambourine, and clapping. “I See the Light/What’s His Name” is sure to fill you with the kind of spirit you expect to find in an old-time southern church.

“Broadminded” is a song originally done by The Louvin Brothers. Biram maintains the bluegrass spirit of the song with the addition of the rhythm section of  Justin Collins (drums) and Chris Rhoades (bass) as well as the harmony vocals. This song even includes some preaching from Biram himself.

On this album, Biram shows a lot of similarities to Reverend Peyton. Both are bluesmen that aren’t afraid to explore areas where other artists fear to tread. A gospel album isn’t the easiest sell these days, but Biram puts his stamp on it and draws you in completely – regardless of the last time you were in church of your own volition. In other words, gospel never sounded so greasy – and that’s not a bad thing. And the best news is that you don’t have to go to church to be filled with the spirit of this album. Sold Out to the Devil:  A Collection of Cuts by The Rev. Scott H. Biram (Bloodshot Records) will be available everywhere on November 22.  Score your copy here.

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