Area Americana act the Bloody Jug Band couldn't have picked a more fortuitous time to unleash their opening canon shot of a debut album; with the world firmly in the grip of Hunger Games fever, average Americans may be more receptive to BJB's brand of traditional rust-belt, washtub-soaked hoodoo than at any time since T-Bone Burnett introduced mom and dad to Appalachian dirges in O Brother, Where Art Thou?
While The Hunger Games soundtrack (also masterfully produced by Burnett) storms the charts thanks to the wise employment of actual female young adults like Taylor Swift and Birdy to give a voice to stoic Games heroine Katniss, Bloody Jug Band's Coffin Up Blood could serve as the soundtrack for the Careers, those dastardly killing machines who enjoy their blood sport a little too much. How else, in this week of all weeks, are passages like, “We stick together and we do just fine / By cleaning the bones we find outside the white lines,” or “I run the hills and I sniff the wind / a-hunting for my prey” supposed to be interpreted than as the gleefully twisted sound of tributes without conscience?
Far from simply trading on nostalgia (or pop-culture juggernauts), charcoal-throated frontman Cragmire Peace and his enabler of horror, the soulful Stormy Jean, merrily cackle through tales of revenge (“Boy Named Lucy”), demonic sympathy (“Reaper Madness”) and the briefest moments of mid-killing-spree self-doubt (“Hidden Good”) with contagious schlock enthusiasm.
Produced by Orlando's own T-Bone-esque magic- maker Justin Beckler, Coffin Up Blood storms through foot-stomping anthem after foot-stomping anthem at a breakneck pace that's at once utterly necessary – the band evidently has little interest in gothic poignancy – and, at 13 tracks over 42 minutes, a bit monotonous and more than a little exhausting. When the album does slow down (“Moon Bathing,” “The Pain”), it loses not just momentum but authenticity. BJB's is a spell best cast swiftly and ruthlessly. After all, their evocative and clever world of grave robbers, blood trains and roadkill dining could be District 12's huntin' music, but who wants to spend all night skinning squirrels?
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