While horror-themed music is represented in almost every musical genre, a good deal of it resides in the “punk” or “metal” category. Yes, horror-rap is available (horrorcore rapper Necro, for starters, and I think there may be a group that consists of rapping clowns, but I’m not sure…), and horror-themed surf is readily available (check out Thee Cormans for an excellent example, then maybe move on to The Bomboras or The Ghastly Ones), but horror-country? It’s not really a genre mash-up that’s been properly explored. Sure, there’s a ton of psychobilly available, but when it comes to honest-to-God country and bluegrass horror-themed music, there aren’t very many choices. The Unknown Hinson (of Squidbillies fame) is an obvious source for some great tunes, and Jesse Dayton’s alter ego Captain Clegg & The Night Creatures (formed specifically for Rob Zombie’s Halloween II) is another band worth a few listens. Getting down to the real nitty-gritty, though, it seems like this brand of horror music never found that one defining band that could serve as the face for the genre. This may all change with the rise of The Bloody Jug Band and their first, full-length LP Coffin Up Blood.
Hailing from the gator-infested swamps of Florida, looking very much like “The Devil’s Rejects” were hired to play as the house band for a Satanic version of “Hee-Haw,” The Bloody Jug Band is a horror/country/bluegrass jug band whose music may best be described as “swamp-noir.” Consisting of Cragmire Peace (vocals/washboard), Stormy Jean (vocals/percussion), Randall Scandal (mandolin), Bloody Rick Lane (harmonica), Brian Shredder (guitar), Seth Funky (washtub bass), and Big Daddy Jerm (jug), The Bloody Jug Band are a tight, feisty group of musicians who prove, without a doubt, that their country-roots-laced love of horror is no mere gimmick. Elements of both the country and the creepy are skillfully on display; dark thematic elements are the fuel that drives the music and lyrics, but these elements never weigh down the proceedings (or let the album become more about the aesthetics than the music). I have to say that, personally, when I realized that a) there was an actual jug involved, and b) there was also a washboard, I was beyond stoked. I love kick-ass country music – and this is about as kick-ass as things get.
So, yeah, they look the part and the horror is there, so what about the music? Coffin Up Blood opens with “Graverobber Blues,” which starts with some dark beats and a carnival barker, then segues into a pluckin’, string-laced dirge pontificating on the hardships of the graverobbin’ life. From moment one, Cragmire Peace’s whiskey-and-sandpaper vocals are matched by the higher-pitched, but just as raw, voice of Stormy Jean, both voices juxtaposed with a sweet, sweet harmonica. “Chained to the Bottom,” a tale of a chain gang from Hell (literally), is an excellent display of the band’s darker offerings, with amazing washboard work and vocals from Peace, recalling a honky-tonk Leonard Cohen. “Hidden Good” picks up the pace a bit, with more great string pluckin’, and some fun lyrical work (“People say we’ve all got a little good inside/maybe my good likes to hide”). “Blacktooth Growl” changes up the mood again, this time focusing more on some raw-yet-understated percussion and some great vocals by Peace and Jean, with Peace’s lead nearly becoming a rhythmic spoken word piece, all again aided by Bloody Rick Lane’s monster harmonica. “Moon Bathing,” a moody werewolf ballad, is yet another highlight, this time featuring Randall Scandal’s masterful mandolin, and a great, mood-setting performance by Peace on washboard. “Reaper Madness” is a song that fully embodies the bittersweet inevitability of death, with an atmosphere that relies on a lighter musical riff, some great hand-claps, and amazing background work by Stormy Jean. Jean takes center stage herself in the next song, the amazing “The Pain,” one of the best country ballads I’ve heard in a long, long time. Peace finds himself doing background vocals here, and the switch is effective and powerful — Stormy’s voice provides (at least, during the first verse) smooth solace against the rough and turbulent vocal backing by Peace, and I can’t help thinking that this is one of the strongest moments of the album.
The Bloody Jug Band revels in its dark humor, and things get back to their rowdy roots with “Boy Named Lucy,” a split-tongue-in-cheek tale of Lucifer’s son (and a playful take on Johnny Cash’s “Boy Named Sue”) that works much better than my description would lead one to believe. “Roadkill Boys” (a song about vultures) and “Cold Cold Sweat” (a “sold my soul to Satan” barnburner) both begin to wrap things up nicely, with the former providing a darker, nastier feeling, and “Cold, Cold Sweat” providing a bit of that Charlie Daniels Band “fuck you” attitude. The album closes with The Bloody Jug Band’s take on AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood (You Got It),” exchanging AC/DC’s metal madness for an acoustic, floor-stompin’ flavor, with Peace and Jean both working the shit out of the vocals, and the percussion driving the proceedings (man, I never thought to myself that one of my favorite AC/DC songs needed a fiddle, but wow – I am thoroughly happy to report that I was wrong, wrong, wrong). The AC/DC cover finishes the album quite nicely, but, while performed and arranged amazingly, doesn’t quite hold a candle to The Bloody Jug Band’s original work; that said, it’s a terribly fun way to close the album, and it works stunningly well.
It’s a damned shame that more horror fans don’t open themselves up to country music. For those looking for a start, I’d heartily recommend The Bloody Jug Band as a path to your indoctrination. These guys (and gal) are a tight bunch of musicians that rise above their look and subject matter to offer a unique sound to music fans, and I hope they get as much recognition as they deserve from country music fans and horror fans alike. Coffin Up Blood is an extremely catchy, layered, and rewarding album, and I cannot recommend it enough. Get yourself a shot of Old Granddad, a bottle of your favorite brew, and grab your boots – it’s time for a hootenanny in Hell, and The Bloody Jug Band is the headliner!
Visit The Bloody Jug Band on their website for music, tour dates, and more!
Nathan Erdel is studying telecommunications at Indiana University. An actor, writer, and filmmaker, Nathan is currently developing “Mr. Dark’s Tales of Terrifying Things,” a horror program hosted by Bloomington’s own Pretorius Dark. When he’s not perusing record stores or questing in his life-long search for the perfect wheat beer, Nathan is serving as one of the organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Fest (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com).