[Mixtape]: I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive


“Now the dark air is like fire on my skin, and even the moonlight is blinding.”

As far as country and americana goes, I’ve always preferred songs from the darker side of the road. Songs that carry with them some of the ancient sinisterness rippling below the surface of the American South’s expansive landscapes or the isolation of its satellite settlements.

This mix was part inspired after reading my way through Southern Gothic writer Flannery O’Connor’s short stories for an article I wrote commemorating her death fifty years on. Despite an early death, O’Connor’s output was formidable and her vivid, sardonic stories brought to life the conflicted and shifting American South of the mid-twentieth century. In a lecture on the grotesque she said, “I think it’s quite safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ haunted”. It’s this feeling of spiritual malaise that permeated the straggled communities and primeval swamplands of Louisiana in Nic Pizzollato’s HBO series True Detective, the other inspiration for this mix, and which I tried to recreate here.

So if, like me, you like your americana with a tinge of gothic desolation, this is for you. Plug in and enjoy.

Tracklist:
1. ‘Drover’ – Bill Callahan – Apocalypse
2. ‘To Bring You My Love’ – PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love
3. ‘Meet Me In The Alleyway’ – Steve Earle – I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive
4. ‘Redemption Day’ – Johnny Cash – American VI: Ain’t No Grave
5. ‘Rake [Live]’ – Townes Van Zandt – A Gentle Evening With Townes Van Zandt
6. ‘The Way It Will Be’ – Gillian Welch – The Harrow And The Harvest
7. ‘Youngstown’ – Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost Of Tom Joad
8. ‘The Singer’ – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Kicking Against The Pricks
9. ‘Cold Irons Bound’ – Bob Dylan – Time Out Of Mind
10. ‘Algiers’ – The Afghan Whigs – Do To The Beast
11. ‘Fallen Peaches’ – The Handsome Family – Singing Bones
12. ‘Wings’ – Josh Ritter – Hello Starling
13. ‘Satellite’ – Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions – Through The Devil Softly
14. ‘Everything’s Fucked’ – Dirty Three – Dirty Three

Let me know what you thought of this mixtape, or post any mixes of your own, in the comments below. I’d love to hear them.

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[Artist Spotlight]: Bhi Bhiman

BhimanI’m just a vagabond, I live to see the light of dawn / The train beats a rhythm and I love to sing along”

 It’s nice to be back. During my European excursion with my old flatmate we managed to catch Josh Ritter’s magnificent show at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. The Paradiso is a beautiful venue and Ritter delivered a killer set with the Royal CIty Band, bringing the songs of The Beast in its Tracks to full, brimming life. Old standards were also mixed in (including Ritter’s beautiful, solo take of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The River’) and throughout the gig Ritter grinned and bounded around like an excitable spaniel. I could easily fill this article with a note-by-note play of the show, but the reason I’m writing this is to share the music of one Bhi Bhiman (pronounced ‘Bee Bee-man’), who supported Ritter at the show.

 A former member of San Francisco’s Hippie Grenade, Bhi Bhiman’s folk-country singer-songwriter (and other double-barrel categorisations) leanings completely bely his early influences of AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil, who Bhiman cites as a particular influence. Picking up the guitar as a teenager when a sporting injury temporarily put him out of action, Bhiman eventually decided to pursue a career in music and has honed his storytelling skills into something very special. On his second album, Bhiman (produced by Josh Ritter producer/band member, Sam Kassirer), his stories range from women and blood (the signatures of country ballads) to railroad drifters and North Korean prisoners. He is also capable of skillfully reinterpreting songs on his damn fine covers EP Substitute Preacher, songs from which I will share in an upcoming Cover Me.  His rocksteady rhythm guitar playing keeps the songs chugging along and is reminiscent of Johnny Cash’s sound, but on tracks such as ‘Mexican Wine’ and ‘Time Heals’ he also shows influences of World music, particularly South African melodies.

Other than his storytelling skills and his ear for a sublime melody Bhiman’s most outstanding quality, the one that caught my attention in Amsterdam, is his crisp and emotive vocals which cut right through the mix. His vocal delivery and timing are flawless, demanding attention and carrying the listener into the stories he spins. He is a truly remarkable performer and is sure to become a heavyweight figure of New Americana, concealed by a benign, welterweight appearance.

Bhiman  and Substitute Preacher are both available now on Tummy Touch Records. Bhi Bhiman will also be supporting Chris Cornell on his upcoming US tour.