So, confession time. Into-The-Dark.com struggles with recent posts due to the fact that those of us who are contributors are also filmmakers – who are currently jumping from one feature to the next. So, due to the fact that we’ve been in an awesome-but-tiring cycle of preproduction-production-post-release-preproduction-production-post-etc, and the fact that we work day jobs, AND we spent the last year programming the Diablolique International Film Festival… well, we simply haven’t had time to write reviews and editorials, and that’s a damn shame. That being said, when we *do* write about something, it’s because we really give a damn about it, and the following is no exception. We here at Into-The-Dark.com have sorely missed giving our two cents about horror and its culture and media, and 2015 is looking to be just as strong as 2014 – if not stronger – for film, literature, and music. In regards to the latter, the Bloody Jug Band have given us one of the strongest albums I’ve heard this year, Rope Burn.
If you read my reviews of The Bloody Jug Band’s earlier releases, 2012’s amazing Coffin Up Blood and it’s follow up, the Murder Of Crows EP, you’ll see that I’m a fan. These Florida swamp rockers, lead by gravel-and-whiskey voiced Cragmire Peace, who also kicks ass on washboard, and Stormy Jean (who is probably the best female rock vocalist since Janis left this Earth), have been kicking my aural ass for years, and they’re certainly showing no signs of stopping. The whole band – Big Daddy Jerm, Brian ‘Shredder’ Blodgett, Seth ‘Funky’ Ambler, Bloody Rick Lane, Steven ’Steevil’ Marshall, and Baby Dingo. The BJB is seriously one of the tightest bands I’ve ever heard, and their blend of swamp-noir-rock-bluegrass-soul-funk-kickassery just keeps getting better. After repeated listens, I can honestly say that Rope Burn is their strongest offering yet. These guys need a supporting spot with a big national tour ASAP, or better yet, someone get these guys a headlining tour of their own. I have a feeling that, as a supporting act, they’d blow the headliner off the stage every night.
Rope Burn starts off with “Volfkiller,” a song that, in its opening, really threw me for a loop. It’s honestly quite a different start for these guys, and my God, it kicks serious ass. The guitar and chants build to the beginning of the lyrics, and as soon as Peace’s vocals kick-in with some of that washboard and Stormy Jean’s backup soon following, you know that the BJB is bringing their strong game. That strength is constant throughout the album – strong musicianship, strong songwriting, strong vocals, and, perhaps, most surprising of all… really, really strong production. While their previous efforts were no slouches in the production department, Rope Burn really shines in its production, and shows that a well-produced album doesn’t have to scrub the rock ’n’ roll out of its musicians. On the contrary, the more polished production on Rope Burn really does the musicianship justice, serving a strong album with strong technical craftsmanship.
Other songs fare just as well. “13 Steps” builds off of a chain-gang chant and Stormy Jean’s dream vocals – Jesus Christ, this lady has some pipes. “Wanted Man In Hell” seems ripe to become one of the BJB’s signature songs, “Dance With The Devil” finds the BJB a little more playful than usual, with a sort of poppy, percussion lead song that features some of that wonderful Bloody Rick Lane harmonica. “Grab A Jug” is more more of a mellow, easy song for the BJB – but that’s nothing in the pejorative; this might be some of the most beautiful production on the whole album, with a great mix of the two vocalists and a band that is just never gonna get enough praise. “Jezebellion” is a fun tale of revenge – ‘They’ll wrap a rope around my neck / for what I have done,’ scream out Cragmire and Stormy, singing the roles of lovers lynched for their adulterous tryst. “Forest Of Bloodthirsty Unicorns” is a dark, tongue-in-cheek song in the style of ’60’s novelty songs… but, again, that is really a compliment in this case — it’s really hard to not think of songs like “Hey There Little Red Riding Hood” when listing to this song. The album closes with the slow-burn “Gal of Sorrow,” the BJB’s reworking of “Man of Constant Sorrow,” with Stormy Jean taking the lead on vocals and the band working to something that sounds both haunting and tribal – with Cragmire’s vocals doing some nice Leonard Cohen/Tom Waits brooding in the background.
I really, really cannot say enough good things about Rope Burn. Every song is strong; I talked about half of the track listing, but the other tracks I didn’t cover are every bit as good and complex. The Bloody Jug Band’s musicianship has always been strong, but this is really a band to be reckoned with; a band that has some talent and chops to back up a groovy aesthetic, an original sound, and a sense of humor without ever being cheeky or camp. In a perfect world, there’d be a tour that included The Reverend Horton Heat, The Unknown Hinson, and The Bloody Jug Band, but, for now, I’ll have to settle for blasting their albums from deep within the midwest, all the while thinking about some swamp-rockin’ madmen in Florida.
Rope Burn is definitely going to be on my list of top releases for 2015, and it’s already getting a crazy amount of playtime with me — it’s really been damn near impossible to remove from the CD player this week. Once again, the Bloody Jug Band have released an album that represents a band in their prime, kicking ass and making it look easy, with great performances in terms of both vocals and instruments, some seriously good songwriting, and some really excellent production. If you haven’t checked out the Bloody Jug Band, Rope Burn is really a nice way to start, and, if you have listened to them before, I’m not sure why you’re still reading this and you haven’t just gone to http://www.bloodyjugband.com/ to pick the album up right now.
Five out of five Zacherles. And that’s the double truth, Ruth.
Nathan Erdel is a screenwriter. He wrote Headless and some other stuff. He likes beer, metal, pizza, and horror. He has three cats and one wife.