Backspin: Bloodshot Records

The Good Music Show: Bloodshot Special

We here at WMXM were recently inspired to go through our massive vinyl archives here at the station, and reviewing the people and organizations who were the ground shakers in the music scene. We happened upon some of the most coveted albums ever recorded. One of the greatest contributors to Chicago, and the rest of roots music could not be overlooked: Bloodshot Records.

Bloodshot Records is an anomaly. The swell of what was once called “Alt-Country” (such a phrase doesn’t seem to be in modern vocabulary, nor should it really be associated with what Bloodshot does) that created a slew of independent labels throughout the country. 18 years later, Bloodshot is still around, and the empire that surrounded them seems to have faded. Why? Bloodshot is an integral part of whatever community they find themselves in. It might be the yearly SXSW day party that draws thousands of people to the tiny parking lot behind an even smaller gallery in Austin Texas, or their support for social issues, just causes and straight-up altruism, or even their undying commitment to go against the grain, Bloodshot has drawn some of the world’s most loved artists to their label.

The label finds itself at a crossroads, filling the “cracks where punk, country, soul, pop, bluegrass, blues, and rock mix and mingle and mutate.” They’ve boasted artists like Neko Case, Exene Cervenka (of the legendary punk group X), and where are where Kelly Hogan worked part-time before the label released her first few albums. When Whiskeytown’s ambitious front man Ryan Adams decided to start his solo career, Bloodshot was there, and Heartbreaker became one of the most critically-acclaimed, and universally loved albums of the time. Bloodshot drew icons of cities from around the US: Austin’s Alejandro Escovedo, New York’s Tod A (Firewater) and Chicago’s Andre Williams and Jon Langford. Langford has been a staple in Bloodshot’s line-up for years; he’s been a staple in Chicago for years. The Mekons have been a Chicago-based punk group whose line-up has lasted over 30 years; he’s also the charismatic head of the Waco Brothers, Wee Hairy Beasties, and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts. He has a radio show on Chicago’s WXRT, and is also an accomplished painter and printmaker in his spare time.

Bloodshot never stopped putting out good music as many other labels that were Bloodshot’s peers fell as trends changed. Bloodshot has even grown to support a sister label, Misra, who have put out albums by Sherwater, Kelly Deal’s new side project R. Ring, and the Black Swans. Justin Townes Earl (son of Steve Earl, named after his father’s good friend Townes Van Zandt) is the recent recipient of AMA’s Song of the Year for “Harlem River Blues,” and his new Memphis-soul inspired album Nothing’s Going to Change the Way You Feel About Me Now got him nominated for Artist of the Year by the same organization. He’s toured with the Avett Brothers and opened for the likes of Mumford & Sons, a legend in the making. Dex Romweber formerly of the group The Flat Duo Jets toured with psychobilly groups like the Cramps, and was a huge influence on that small guitar player named Jack White. Time will show that acts like Lydia Loveless and Chicago soul group (and recent guest at our own Chapel show) JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound will capture the same grit and stubborn success that has propelled Bloodshot since 1994.

Lydia Loveless, “Can’t Change Me” from Bloodshot Records on Vimeo.

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