My new definition of underground: Singer-guitarist Daniel Hutchens and guitarist Eric Carter, friends since they met in elementary school in Ripley, West Virginia, and, for the past 23 years, the sturdy, stubborn axis of the Athens, Georgia, band Bloodkin. The group’s new album of range-war guitar fire and Southern-gothic turmoil, Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again (SCI Fidelity), is the first Bloodkin record I’ve ever heard. It is, in fact, their eighth — they debuted in 1994 with Good Luck Charm — and that doesn’t include two solo outings by Hutchens, Bloodkin’s main songwriter, and six CDs of unreleased material, dating back to 1988, coming in an imminent Bloodkin box set. Bad luck, worse business and the wrong kinds of fun have kept Bloodkin below most folks’ radar, with some exceptions. Widespread Panic, also of Athens, have covered Bloodkin songs live and on record (Panic’s version of “Can’t Get High,” from Good Luck Charm, was an FM hit in ’94), while longtime fan Patterson Hood of Athens band Drive-By Truckers wrote join-the-club liner notes for this album.
So I’m late — but happy with my timing. On Baby, Bloodkin are at a hot peak in their odyssey, opening with the hypnotic hell of “The Viper,” a catalog of addictions checked off by Hutchens in a belly-to-the-bar drawl against a ’70s-Neil Young tornado of banjo, dirty guitars and prairie-chapel organ. The spike and slash of Carter and Eric Martinez’s guitars in “Wait Forever” suggest Keith Richards and Ron Wood — armed with Civil War bayonets. “Heavy With Child” and “Little Margarita” combine the uncomplicated surge of early Wilco and the sunshine soul of the Allman Brothers Band on Eat a Peach. There may be no better description of America’s original family values than Hutchens’ reference in the acid-country jangle of “Rhododendron” to “a touch of Old Testament iron/And a whiff of wild rhododendron.” He and Carter certainly make no excuses for how long it’s taken them to hit daylight. “We were stupid or inspired or a little of each,” Hutchens sings over the gnarled twang in “A Place to Crash.” “We were just country boys speaking in tongues.” On Baby, They Told Us We Would Rise Again, Bloodkin talk loud and straight. And I have a lot of catching up to do.
[From Issue 1073 — March 5, 2009]