Album Reviews

Scott H. Biram

The Bad Testament

Artist:     Scott H. Biram

Album:     The Bad Testament

Label:     Bloodshot Records

Release Date:     02/24/2017

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Cut from the same rebellious, unwashed cloth as Shooter Jennings and Hank Williams III, Scott H. Biram rings out a grimy bar rag of hard truth and tortured, rough-and-tumble Americana on the beat-up wooden floors of The Bad Testament. With a Bible in one hand and a bottle of poisonous rotgut in the other, Biram, also known as “The Dirty One Man Band,” for good reason, seeks out sin and salvation and finds both in spades in this album of gruff country blues that occasionally gets wild with trashy punk and metal aggression when it goes off its medication.

Going full-throttle, the ramshackle, runaway “Trainwrecker” is destined to crash in a fiery heap of self-destruction, while instrumental riots of slide-guitar boogie “Hit the River” and “Pressin’ On” are two of three bonus tracks that make him whoop and holler. Extolling the virtues of drinking, smoking a little reefer and some good old loving, the amiable outlaw country of “Red Wine” feels like a long-lost Waylon Jennings classic, but as “Swift Driftin’” profoundly gnashes its teeth about how “it takes a real piece of shit to be a real piece of shit,” Biram angrily strums an acoustic guitar as if it owes him money.

Quieter and more introspective, “Righteous Ways” and the brooding, self-aware “Still Around” echo Toronto’s bohemian Yorkville folk scene of the 1960s. The autobiographical “Crazy & Crippled” restlessly tosses and turns on a bed of wooly organ. The ghostly shuffle “Long Old Time” confesses to misdeeds as lonesome harmonica softly honks, and “True Religion” sounds like an old gospel hymn, with its weather-beaten, sparsely layered vocals , that Depression-era prison chain gangs might have sung. Songwriting with this kind of raw honesty is rare.

—Peter Lindblad

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