Bloodshot, you had me at Freakwater sings “Sway”.
To celebrate keeping the lights on for 25 years, the boys and girls and Chicago’s Bloodshot Records have put together a super-sized compilation of 22 unreleased cuts from a beautiful cross-section of artists. Dig classic honky tonk and western swing? Maybe you like your twang slightly crunchy or just want to cruise to a hip bopper that makes your hips swivel? Need to mellow out on someone else’s introspection or cry in your liquor? This is the comp for you.
Too Late To Pray: Defiant Chicago Roots is an odd assemblage of originals and covers with no discernable recipe for taste and I’m down with that. To be honest, I was only familiar with a few of the artists– my beloved Freakwater (Catherine Ann and Janet take the Rolling Stones down into the deep, dark mine and leave ’em), Robbie Fulks (“Lonely Ain’t Hardly Alive” is bluegrass gold), and The Handsome Family (who give the treatment to Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song”). From there, each cut was a fresh cherry off the tree.
Wild Earp & The Free For Alls spur this beast forward with “The Last Honky Tonk in Chicago” followed by a fine, fuzzy rendition of Little Esther’s “If It’s News To You” out of Tammi Savoy & The Chris Casello Band. Too Late To Pray pinballs along bouncing off the clash of John Langford’s Hillbilly Lovechild and into the pleasant depth of Half Gringa. Bloodshot’s alt-country boots plant their heels in bands like Brendan Kelly & The Wandering Birds, The Family Gold, Big Sadie, David Quinn, Joybird– and then they grow spikes with Los Gallos and the punky rockabilly-ness of The Dyes.
The band Rookie makes an excellent run at “Head Over Heels”– yes, Tears For Fears– and it might be my favorite cover on the comp. The Hoyle Brothers nail down the hardwood dance floor with “A Little Bit of Buck”, and the Lawrence Peters Outfit shuffles across it. Peppered throughout are more alternative gems from Bethany Thomas & Tawny Newsome and Sima Cunningham (“Weeds and Daisies” is striking), and there’s a decent dose of classic country cool tucked towards the end with Kelly Hogan, The Saluda Moonlighters, and The Western Elstons.
I won’t declare that I’m going down the rabbit hole with all the artists on the album, but Too Late To Pray doesn’t have a bad cut on it. Congratulations, Bloodshot, on 25 years! When I get to the bar, I’ll raise a glass to 25 more!
Order Too Late To Pray: Defiant Chicago Roots directly at bloodshotrecords.com.