Monday, May 2, 2005
"Going back to my to my Daddy's farm / Got too many holes in my arm."
So begins Scroatbelly's classic 1996 release "Daddy's Farm." Then again, "classic" is a matter of taste, and when it comes to anything related to Split Lip Rayfield, "taste" is a matter of how one feels about murder, incest, domestic abuse, excessive drinking and country music.
Scroatbelly is in fact the virgin "rock band" incarnation of local bluegrass favorites Split Lip Rayfield - in essence, more songs about whiskey amped up with drums, electric guitars and some meth. Bloodshot Records' decision to re-release "Daddy's Farm" likely comes on the heels of a burgeoning Split Lip fanbase unfamiliar with the band's origins. The label itself admits to being divided on "Daddy's Farm"; some revere it, while others reportedly wish it would crawl back into the god-forsaken Hell portal from which it sprang.
For all the "Deliverance"-tinged hyperbole kicked around in reference to Scroatbelly, the band's defining quality is its utter lack of allegiance to a singular style or vision. "What the hell were these guys listening to in 1996?" one has to wonder. "Didn't they have record stores in Wichita back then?"
Sure, you could throw out that "psychobilly" term. Or you could make references to like-minded country homewreckers like The Supersuckers, Southern Culture on the Skids or The Reverend Horton Heat. But when it really boils down to is there are only a handful of things certain about this band: they play really fast; they play really well; and you sure as hell wouldn't want to actually meet these guys if they were anything like the crack-smoking-wife-beating-killing-for-kicks f*cks described in their lyrics. (Thankfully they're all top shelf chaps, so go ahead - buy em a beer.)
On first listen, "Daddy's Farm" can be jarring: tempos stop on a dime; whimsical musical diversions disrupt otherwise coherent song structures; and lyrics that constantly incriminate their author of despicable deeds ("She's barely legal / And I'm barely free"). All in all, it's a sobering experience if you're drunk and an inebriating experience if you're sober.
But if - and this is a huge flippin' "if" - one can internalize the idea of slap-bass in country music, perhaps Scroatbelly ain't all that weird in the first place. Heck, if Ted Nugent can venture north of the Mason-Dixon line; there ain't no reason for mainstream America not to embrace Scroatbelly.