Feels Good to Be Bad
Equipped with an electric guitar and home studio, Scott H. Biram can alchemize sorrow and hard liquor into a collection of toe-tapping, freewheeling Americana. The one-man band’s latest album, Bad Testament, is a catchy, unapologetic confessional that alternates between pure reincarnations of blues and jaunty punk-country mashups. Throughout the album, Biram reaches half-heartedly for salvation only to fall short, draws lines in the dirt only to cross them and revels in the ensuing whiskey-drenched chaos.
“I struggle all the time in my mind and in my heart,” Biram laments at the open of “Righteous Ways” — a reflective track which amounts to the eye of the album’s raucous storm. On the heels of a scorcher like “Swift Driftin’,” “Righteous Ways” feels like the comedown after a long night of binge drinking and Texas-sized debauchery. Biram’s admission of struggle comes as no surprise considering the album’s constant push and pull between redemption and sin. Several tracks, including “Set Me Free” and “True Religion,” open with lo-fi soundbites of drawling sermons that sound as if they were extracted straight from the static of an antique radio, as they are cleverly juxtaposed with the sin being preached about.
Aptly titled “TrainWrecker” is a joyride that seems on the verge of combustion from the first chord, with Biram’s snarl serving as a reminder of his heavy-metal past. “Pressin’ On” and “Hit the River” are two cathartic instrumental commotions that lack actual vocals, with the exception of Biram’s borderline maniacal laughter. “True Religion” is a stripped-down pseudo-gospel that delivers some brutal honesty on mortality in the words, “you know your child was born to die,” while “Long Old Time” is a plucky tune that careens from heartache to murder. In the short and sweet track, “Feel So Wrong,” Biram revisits the blues and his time hewn voice is nothing short of perfection.
Bad Testament gives us a larger-than-life, weathered outlaw who seems to have the ability to turn his conscience on and off depending on what the music calls for. Despite —perhaps, because of — this duality, Biram displays an exceptional amount of self awareness that results in a relatable, genuine album about the darker side of the human condition. Biram may never find peace between the demons raging behind his dirty flannel and mustachioed grimace, but with an album this good, we’re not sure we want him to.