Canadian singer/songwriter and one-man band Bloodshot Bill has just released his latest and arguably his best album, Thunder & Lightning, on Norton Records. Following on the heels of a slew of 7″ and 10″ vinyl releases, all released in 2010 and on a few different labels, Thunder & Lightning revs its mighty engine and goes cruising through all fourteen songs like a shiny black 1950 Cadillac Deville.
Still composed of the same greasy rockabilly and raunchy rock’n’roll for which Bloodshot Bill is so well known, though with something else that suggests a purer take on the roots rock era his music hearkens back to, the songs remain true to what we have come to expect from Bloodshot Bill. He does it his own way, as usual, and his own way consists of a sound which is quite possibly the most genuine thing this side of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Charlie Feathers, and a few other notable cats of that time. Hip and full of roots rock swagger, Bill’s sound has been shakin’ up not just the underground but the music scene as a whole for some years now. It’s a sound that would do well at a modern day sock hop full of punks and freaks; a sound that would do equally well on a collection of songs in tribute to 1950s rock’n’roll (or rockabilly, as it was more commonly referred to in its day); a sound that may prompt one to forgo shaving one’s sideburns for a time and roll a pack of Lucky Strikes up in the sleeve of one’s t-shirt, as well as make a habit of retrieving one’s switchblade comb from one’s back pocket, clicking it open, and coolly slicking one’s hair back in perfect greasy locks.
Thunder & Lightning is made up of both original and cover songs, though definitely more of the former than the latter, all done in Bloodshot Bill’s signature style. In fact, I wrote a good bit about Bill’s sound and style in an article/interview I did with the artist himself back in April of 2010 for Plug In Music Magazine. And to give you a better idea of Bloodshot Bill’s sound and style, I have included the following lines directly from that piece, since I very much doubt I could sum up those things about him any better now than I did at that point in time.
He sways to the rhythm. He shakes his head back and forth, side to side, while his dark locks, combed to perfection only moments before, come loose and hang over his brow and eyes in long greasy strands. He frantically strums and picks the strings of his guitar. He trembles and stomps to the beat. He wails unrestrainedly into the microphone, serving up his peculiar vocal acrobatics, going through a series of grunts, growls, snarls, hiccups, yodels, measured breaths, and a number of other sounds born of his mouth and throat that go entirely against and far beyond ordinary singing.
It’s a frenzied rebel sound that Bloodshot Bill owns, the guitar occupying the middle ground between clear channel and dirty settings, the drum and hi-hat work steady, and the deep, raspy, hiccupy vocals more than a little reminiscent of the late, great Charlie Feathers. His sound represents rockabilly as it should be, as it used to be, only with his own twist applied to it. To be sure, it is greasy-haired, comb-in-the-back-pocket, cigarette-behind-the-ear, cuffed pant legs, plaid-shirted, foot-stompin’, hip-shakin’, finger-snappin’, tattoo-sportin’, needle-to-the-vinyl music for both the one-man band and rockabilly sets alike.
One cool thing about Bloodshot Bill is that he does cover songs other artists would never in a million years think to do, as he has a rather unusual and particular musical palate which directs him to bygone bands and singer/songwriters whose songs lay largely dusty and unused. Well, Bill brushes them off and spins ’em until he’s got the song he wants to do down pat. Not only does he get them down pat, he does them in such a way that they invariably bear his unmistakable and indelible sonic imprint. And in this particular case, we’re talkin’ a slow, dark rendition of Eddie Cochran’s “Dark Lonely Street,” an interesting up-tempo take on Marvin Rainwater’s “My Brand of Blues,” and of course the rockin’ remake of Tooter Boatman’s “Thunder and Lightning” as the title track of the LP.
As far as the original songs on the Thunder & Lightning LP go, I can listen to the entire album with equal appreciation for each song. But it seems as if recent listeners favor specific songs, such as “Crazy About the Girl” and “The Hunt,” among others. But as soon as one listens to the opener, “All the Time,” one has a pretty good idea what kind of ride one’s in for.
One doesn’t even have to be a fan of Bill’s earlier albums, like Trashy Greasy Rockin’ Billy! or Git High Tonight!, to appreciate and enjoy the Thunder & Lightning LP. If you don’t have a record player, get one! Music is always better on vinyl format, after all. And you can get your hands on a copy of rockabilly wild man Bloodshot Bill’s latest from either Norton Records or select record stores.