The blues are one of those musical constants that interweaves into each and every one of our lives. It’s a narrative fabric that acts as a wraith, shadowing what we do, and how we feel. What we emanate aids in building this very genre, believe it or not. The blues feeds off the emotions and becomes enmeshed in modern society, progressing like any adaptable living organism. Whether a person likes it or (claim to) hate it, the blues are everywhere. It’s the seed that sprouts out those very songs that people sing along to about sorrow, loss, tragedy, etc., be it country music, rock ‘n’ roll, heavy metal, and even pop. Without the blues, none of these other forms of music would be where they are today, if they would even exist at all. Itself, the blues were derived from African musical traditions consisting of work songs, spirituals, field hollers, chants, and ballads, culminating into the “Ground Zero” of contemporaneous music with such subgenres as country blues, Delta blues, Piedmont blues, and so on, so forth. With such an amalgamation of styles creating one genre, there’s always going to be artists that will push the envelope, cross any or all boundaries, and birth something altogether fresh, yet never straying too far from tradition. Many fail, while a select few can accomplish such a feat that relegates these mad geniuses into a category all their own. Drawing on previous experiences and personal musical taste, one such collective that has masterfully crafted this skill of creative daring is the Austin, Texas-based roots rockers, Churchwood.
In 2007, vocalist/lyricist Joe Doerr and guitarist Bill Anderson expanded on the idea of fashioning an alternative rock ‘n’ roll band with their interests in the blues, punk, country, and psych, hatching something that would be wonderfully ground-breaking. This fearsome duo received their bruises while spending time in such groups as Poison 13, Meat Purveyors, the Horsies, LeRoi Brothers, Ballad Shambles, and others, blazing trails along the way, and setting a high bar for their Texas-area peers. Recruiting former Crack Pipes guitarist Billysteve Korpi, bassist Adam Kahan, and bassist-turned-drummer Julien Peterson, this powerhouse that they christened Churchwood was released on an unsuspecting Austin club circuit that quickly earned them a loyal fan base. Garnering a reputation as a top-notch alt-blues act that had to be seen, Doerr took his love for Delta blues and Captain Beefheart, and began articulating a poetic manifesto that would become their debut album. “Churchwood” was released in 2011 on the Saustex label (where they remain today), which saw their single “Rimbaud Diddley” get placed on an episode of the fourth season of “Sons Of Anarchy”. They followed this up with an EP “Just the Two Of Us” in 2012, then two more full length albums, “Churchwood 2” (2013) and “Churchwood 3: Trickgnosis” (2014). With this volume of excellent material creating a buzz in underground circles, the press intensified the interest in these Austinites with positive local coverage from the Austin Chronicle and Lone Star Music. As word leaked out, even more favorable reviews came courtesy of Blurt, Punk Globe, Trouser Press, and even going international in Americana UK.
Churchwood, and their brand of self-professed “avant-garde blues”, are back with their fourth album “Hex City” (released November, 2016) from Saustex Records. The ten tracks that lay within provide a soundtrack for a musical journey where some tunes mule kick you with the intensity of a Texas Pete/Tequila cocktail, while others ease in with the smoothness of a frozen (but powerful) Margarita. Drawing on the eclectic skyline of their talented backgrounds, the deacons of Churchwood weld the Southern-Tex blues with prog leanings blended with psychedelic and jazz progressions. Right off the first cut “You Let the Dead In”, to “One Big White Nightmare” (with killer mouth harp work), and “Dogs”, with its unpredictable road of madness, you’ve come to realize that you’re not in Bonnie Raitt territory. The fifth track, “Sag”, is a punchy slice of garage rock that takes you off into a Jon Spencer-on-peyote wonderland trip, with a dash of Flipper at their most esoteric. The hip shaker “Metanoia” recalls the upbeat rock ‘n’ roll of the Raunch Hands, complete with the horn section of the awesomely named Money Shot Brass. And proving that Churchwood not only pushes the envelope, they rip it to shreds by colliding the twanginess of the Blasters with the psych heaviness leanings of Blue Cheer on “Woden’s Day Blues”. The experimentation found on this album would fall faster than a lead fart in less capable hands, but since the ‘Wood clergy are seasoned veterans, they’ve proven that they can pull this off in spades (like they have with their previous output). Call it “avant-garde blues”, “roots rock”, or even “psycho Americana” (I made that one up), but regardless, Churchwood is here to provide aural adventurism. Let them be your chauffeurs to “Hex City”, the musical mescaline that’ll change the way you feel about the blues.
Stay up to date with Churchwood, including tour date information on Facebook.
Purchase all Churchwood and Saustex Records releases (as well as the latest music sampler “Saustex Variations Vol. 3”) on the Saustex website.