According to the discourse of the pop-management industry, the Chinese language (either Cantonese or Mandarin – management consultants prefer to work in the comforting atmosphere of generalisations) uses the same word for crisis and opportunity.
The factual basis of this superficially profound socio-linguistic observation isn’t clear – the smart money has it that it’s as credible as Shane Warne’s guide to managing personal relationships – but it does seem both attractive, and applicable in a broader context. Take blues music, for instance: Scott H Biram’s new record, Nothin’ But Blood, gives the impression of a man who’s spent his life knee-deep in the pungent faeces of personal dysfunction: booze, drugs, relationship meltdown, incarceration, war and then some.
But to listen to the album is to find an artist almost revelling in the opportunity to create razor-sharp music from the many and varied crises of life. Slow and Easy finds Biram recalling the stark images of his childhood, and withdrawing to the shadows to get his life back in order; Gotta Get to Heaven is the country-infused man trying to find redemption. Alcohol Blues and the pulverising Only Whiskey are defiant celebrations of alcohol’s dangerous virtues, Never Comin’ Home is heart-wrenching Hank Williams melancholy, Church Point Girls could get you arrested in most southern states – and, for that matter, probably just about anywhere in Australia and I’m Troubled is the back porch equivalent of a session on Dr Freud’s couch.
The cover of Amazing Grace sees Biram’s harmonica taking the time-honoured church classic to Deliverance country; When I Die is draped with honesty, and not a drop of hypocrisy. There’s some bad shit that’s gone on to make this record, and that’s just why it’s so good to hear.
BY PATRICK EMERY
Best Track: Gotta Get to Heaven
If You Like These, You’ll Like This: JOHN LEE HOOKER, HOWLIN’ WOLF, THE WHITE STRIPES
In A Word: Blues