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Album Review: While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records by Various Artists
Great, Based on 4 Critics
Paste Magazine - 93 Based on rating 9.3/10
When Chicago’s Bloodshot made its entrance with 1994’s For A Life of Sin, it was disorienting: a Midwestern country/roots/punk hybrid that had no obvious antecedents—just the hillbilly highway out of Kentucky for a feeder system. But somehow Nan Warshaw and Rob Miller had the moxie, fire and work ethic to build this unlikely indie that could. And that “could” includes coloring outside the lines and supporting artists and iconoclasts like Ryan Adams, the Old ‘97s, Detroit Cobras, Alejandro Escovedo, Justin Townes Earle, the Waco Brothers, Neko Case—all combustive creatives who smear genres, crash beats, write with switchblades and play guitars that buzz like rusty electric razorwire.
Independent record labels are not always known for their longevity, so the mere fact Chicago's Bloodshot Records has managed to celebrate a 20th birthday is remarkable in itself. Even more impressive, though, is the fact Bloodshot has survived as a principled and artist-friendly label largely devoted to what was being called alt-country in 1994 (the label has always preferred the phrase "insurgent country"), a movement that produced many great acts but no major commercial breakthroughs. If Bloodshot's influence hasn't necessarily been broad, it's certainly proved to be deep, and on While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records, the label has thrown a grand birthday party by inviting 38 different acts to cover their favorite song from Bloodshot's catalog.
Leave it to Chicago’s edgiest and most notorious indie Americana imprint to approach its 20th year in a unique format. Instead of just picking and choosing worthy recordings from two decades worth of releases, as many other indie outfits would do in their situation (including themselves on their fifth anniversary compilation Down to the Promised Land), they invited other acts, regardless of label affiliation, to the party. The result is 38 tracks that originated on Bloodshot, performed by a wildly diverse roster of artists who were influenced by the music, label or both.
For two decades, Bloodshot Records has been carving out their niche as a catalyst of alt-country and Americana. This 38-track compilation illustrates the large shadow of influence cast by Bloodshot artists (ranging from catalog artists Old 97’s and Alejandro Escovedo to label newcomers Murder By Death and Lydia Loveless) on fellow musicians (Frank Turner, Koji, Ben Kweller and others contribute). Emo-revival poster boy Into It.