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Scott H. Biram

The Bad Testament – 2017 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Scott H. Biram

Country is a relative term to Scott H. Biram. Over his 20-plus year career, the famously self-proclaimed Dirty Old One Man Band has opened for a dizzying array of artists across the musical spectrum - Willie Nelson, G. Love and Special Sauce, Pinetop Perkins, Social Distortion, The Dwarves and Clutch, among others - and been an appropriate fit for every one of the them. Biram doesn't acknowledge genre; he just goes where the next song takes him and inhabits it instinctively, like water taking the shape of the vessel into which its poured. It's not a formula. It's simply the only way Biram works.

The latest example of Biram's fearless methodology, "The Bad Testament," is another exquisite set of the native Texan's raw and freewheeling approach to whatever the hell he wants to do. He dials up country with a blistering outlaw bravado on "Set Me Free" and "Red Wine," investing his soundtrack with the swagger and spark of the Haggard/Nelson/Jennings holy trinity (particularly in his Willie-inspired guitar solos that eschew tempo and note hitting for passion channeling), while "Trainwrecker" scorches like a Mojo Nixon/Cub Koda jam session where they're passing around a Dukes of Hazzard thermos filled with radiator whiskey. There are folky moments of reflection, regret and a form of redemption ("Righteous Ways," "Still Around," "Feel So Wrong"), hints of Biram's abiding love of the Delta blues masters ("Swift Driftin'") and his one-man Rolling Thunder revue ("Crippled and Crazy").

Biram closes quietly with a spirited vocal/tambourine tent revival spin through the gospel standard "True Religion" then ramps back up with a trio of brief, but potent instrumental bonus tracks that apparently comprise the EP "Lost on the River," the harrowing 87-second guitars-blazing rapid shoot of "Hit the River," the John Mayall-in-a-Texas-roadhouse workout of "Pressin' On," and the amped up front porch scorch of "What Doesn't Kill You..."

With "The Bad Testament," like the rest of his estimable catalog, Scott H. Biram is well versed in outlaw scripture and possesses the rare ability to save and kick your ass simultaneously.