Band Profile

Al Scorch

Al Scorch
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois Current Label: Bloodshot Records Websites: Official Website
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Band Members: Al Scorch

Al Scorch Bio:

Al Scorch grew up in Chicago, with its storied history
of corrupt power at the top and righteous fighters
and big dreamers at the bottom. From the town that
gave the world characters like Studs Terkel, Upton
Sinclair, and the anarchists in Bughouse Square,
Scorch adds his voice to the choir with the enthusiasm
and charisma of a Maxwell Street preacher. He eyes
the prize of that ever-elusive promised land that’s
worth scrapping for, wherever or whatever it may
be. With a stentorian bullhorn of a voice, he exhorts,
not with a holy book in his hand, but a banjo and
guitar. He’s a messenger and a conduit, a believer
that a soul-stirring song will march you forward.

Balanced on wedges of punk, old-time string band,
American and European folk, and soulful balladry, Al
is an entertainer, road warrior, storyteller, and one
helluva musician. His second album and Bloodshot
debut Circle Round the Signs is built on a sonic
framework sharing an intersection with the Bad
Livers’ lawless next-gen take on traditional country
& bluegrass, and Black Flag’s burn-it-all-down revolt
and breakneck tempos. From the train-hopping
tale of “Pennsylvania Turnpike” - updating steel
rails to concrete ribbons - to the shout-along, latenight
lament of “Insomnia” (“I toss and I turn
in my bed every night/ I’m sober but my mind’s
as high as a kite”), the aural dexterity is thrilling.

Woody Guthrie’s “Slipknot” gets a complex, Western
swing cum prog-grass treatment, led by the angular
fiddling of Felipe Tobar, that would make acoustic
thrash godfathers Split Lip Rayfield grin demonically.
And “Want One” blazes down the dirt track
with a Stanley Brothers fireball energy driven by
Scorch’s clawhammer banjoing, and the it’s-safeto-
laugh-now adventure of meeting an intensely
inebriated fan while busking across the country.

But Scorch is far more than lightning for lightning’s
sake. Through 10 songs of high wire musicianship,
debilitating despair, wild-eyed hope, and sharpelbowed
views of social (in)justice, he deftly maintains
a balance of precise touch and texture, pop catchiness
and frenetic intensity. That Minutemen inspired
“jam econo” vibe embracing the freedom of art and
community as long as you’re working hard and bringing
your friends along for the ride?… Yeah, that’s here too.

He shows a keen ear for the Mekons’ trans-Atlantic
roots and marries it to the Avett Brothers’ big stage
sound on “Lost At Sea.” Likewise, there is depth
in the song’s lyrics during the cliffhanging, reallife
narrative of a best friend almost dying when
the HMS Bounty sank in Hurricane Sandy:

“When I heard of the wreck my heart left my chest/ tears
came rolling down/ the same sun shone through the
window/ I thought of a world without you around”

DIY show shakedowns parallel a down-and-outon-
Clout-Street message (“Every bossman is on
another bossman’s take/ There ain’t no free man
except the one you make”) on the vaudeville-via-
Eastern European klezmer door-kicker “Everybody
Out.” With its bittersweet imagery and mournful
harmonies, “Lonesome Low” goes beyond the blue
grass and into the deep woods. While the elegiac
french horn in “Poverty Draft” wouldn’t sound out
of place if it was played in a WWI trench, nor would
its message of the poor being the tools of war (“The
fight for freedom pays more than minimum wage”).

A punk rock banjo-wielding John Prine or Billy Bragg,
Al Scorch writes for the everyperson. Through his
acrobatically poetic politics, hopeful tales of love
lost (“Love After Death”), or cathartic takes on urban
chaos (“City Lullaby”), he pens rowdy campfire
stories, calls for action, and draws the epic from
the ordinary. Celebrate, right a wrong, or find your
path and go for it. It’s heavy shit, but so is life.

3 Comments

  1. Al Scorch releases weirdest music video for the best folk-punk song you’ll hear all year “Everybody Out”2/26/2017 11:55 AM | Permalink

    […] More On Al Scorch […]

  2. Al Scorch releases weirdest music video for the best folk-punk song you’ll hear all year “Everybody Out” - PUNX.UK2/26/2017 1:24 PM | Permalink

    […] heard of Chicago bred, “intrepid songwriter and lightning-fingered banjoist/guitarist” Al Scorch until a press release for his new music video hit the DS inbox. Dutifully clicking play despite […]

  3. Al Scorch releases weirdest music video for the best folk-punk song you’ll hear all year “Everybody Out” - Worldwide Hippies2/27/2017 4:00 PM | Permalink

    […] heard of Chicago bred, “intrepid songwriter and lightning-fingered banjoist/guitarist” Al Scorch until a press release for his new music video hit the DS inbox. Dutifully clicking play despite […]

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