No One Got Hurt: Bloodshot Records 15th Anniversary @ The Hideout, Chicago
[Rating: 3.5 stars]
When Chicago label Bloodshot Records celebrated its 15th anniversary, it threw a party that was as raucous and decidedly lo-fi as the label’s origins and attitude. From the hilarious and loving liner notes – not to mention the music itself – it sounds as if that Sept. 12, 2009, shindig at the famed Hideout was way too much fun. But it’s not as if Bloodshot didn’t deserve to throw itself a balls-out bash. The label almost singlehandedly put “insurgent country” on the map — well before we started calling it Americana — and launched the careers of Whiskeytown and Ryan Adams, Alejandro Escovedo, Scott H. Biram, Old 97’s and of course, various Jon Langford incarnations (the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, the Waco Brothers, Jon and Sally Timms).
Biram, Escovedo, the Wacos, Timm, the reunited Blacks, Bobby Bare Jr. and the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir are among the acts captured on No One Got Hurt, the clever title that also serves as a party post-mortem (with events that apparently included belt-sander races and a drunken spelling bee, that was probably some feat).
Sanctified Grumblers kick it off with “EZ Ridin’ Grumblers,” which sounds something like another old Bloodshot band, Asylum Street Spankers. Langford and Timms’ “Pill Sailor,” an Irish sea chanty, seems equally representative of the label’s uncanny ability to simultaneously pay homage to and flout traditional musical forms. Bare’s “Monks at the Disco” is another joyous representation of that ethos, harkening back to early garage rock with honkin’ sax, thrashing drums and a total Ramones vibe. The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir get even punkier with “Tear Down the Opera House,” a Sex Pistols-like romp with the all-too-literate line, “I don’t think that’s very appropriate here.”
Biram delivers what could be a Bloodshot theme song, “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue,” then endears himself to truckers everywhere with “Truck Driver,” which he spews with machine-gun speed and hysterical flourishes.
Escovedo pays further homage to Bloodshot’s proud heritage with his signature tune, “Castanets,” mentioning he always dedicates it to Joe Strummer (punk’s patron saint), “but tonight it’ll go out to Joe Strummer and all the people of Chicago.” Because of Bloodshot, it, and he, went a lot farther than that – which he notes with a sweet dedication to his next song, “I was Drunk.” “At a time when I couldn’t buy a break, they gave me one,” Escovedo says. They gave roots music fans everyone one, actually, making records for love and trusting quality would win the day.
Appropriately, the album wraps with a trio of Waco Brothers tunes; part of the delicious irony of Bloodshot’s history is that the band that emerged as its marquee Americana act features a Welshman. But that’s the beauty of insurgency. Here’s a toast to many more anniversaries. And artists who aren’t afraid to mix country, funk, bluegrass, punk and whatever they damned well please in the name of art. And a good time.