AL SCORCH

“LOST AT SEA”

Al Scorch – Vocals, Banjo
Jess McIntosh – Vocals, Violin

LINKS:
Al Scorch Bandcamp
Al Scorch Facebook
Al Scorch Official

Bloodshot Records Bandcamp
Bloodshot Records Facebook
Bloodshot Records Official

CREDITS:
Director/Camera/Edit/Sound – Travis Button (travisbutton.com)
Produced by – Half Stop Sessions (halfstopsessions.com)

Al Scorch is one of those artists that defy genre classification and simultaneously defies physics every single time he lays his hands on the “jo”.  Everything about his approach to music is sincere and genuine and his love for what he does leaves nothing to question.  I know this because the day we filmed this session and had a small layover at my house, the first thing he asked after walking in the door was “You mind if I play the jo?”.  The jo in question was my practically new Goodtime Banjo from Deering, an instrument merely incomparable to the ones he plays on a regular basis but it didn’t seem to matter to him.  Keep in mind he was rounding out a tour, playing every night, really sick on this particular afternoon, and still the first thing that came to mind was to play a banjo when he saw one, I believe this is what defines Al.

When we set off to Ascot Hills right down the street from my house, I knew I had wanted to film a session here for a while and that it would be the perfect setting for these stripped down versions of Al’s songs I had witnessed the night before at the Cinema Bar in Culver City.  After our long and grueling journey up the hill (believe it or not, this fucking hill will have you panting at the top), we got everything setup just as the light was everything I had hoped it would be for this session up here.  They kicked it off with “Lost At Sea”, a quick and raucous display of ‘jo mastery and within the first 30 seconds we are graced with what Al does best, slaying the shit out of his banjo.

These were new songs I had only heard the night before but I got oh so lucky as to have tilted down with perfect timing of the first explosion in Al’s picking which was an excellent start to a song filled with metaphors equating to what sounds like a lifelong friendship and a heartbreaking moment of potentially lifesaving news.  Jess accompanies and leads with beautiful violin throughout the song which really carries a great balance between her and Al’s banjo.  On the album version of “Lost At Sea”, all the violin parts are accordion parts but both maintain the ability to foreshadow the news later in the song that Al’s friend is ok.  I felt oddly positive and uplifted the entire song filming this even while engaging with the lyrics of the song.  It was a fast paced roller-coaster ride and couldn’t have kicked off this sesh any better way.

The two songs we filmed “Lost At Sea” and “City Lullaby” from Al’s latest album, “Circle Round The Signs”, out May 13 (last week) via Bloodshot Records, Al seems to be taking us along a more personal and less politically driven journey.  This being his first release on the Chicago independent staple, it makes a statement of growth in the time since his last release as well as featuring some new players from the last outing.  This album is solid from start to finish and touches on all the styling that makes Al, Al.  It’ll make you cry, laugh, and appreciate what you have right in front of you.

My introduction to Al’s music and instant fandom came somewhere around 2013’ish via (if memory serves me correctly) his session with the fine folks at Chicago’s own Audiotree, one of the sessions series that inspired me to start this one.  Joined by The Country Soul Ensemble, I was completely blown away by the musicianship displayed in this 50 minutes of holy shit, not to mention the humble nature of Al’s personality which just gives you an entirely new level of appreciation for what he does.

This led me on a short journey to see what else Al was up to and come to find out he had actually released a few albums at this point, albeit sorta difficult to get your hands on the older self-recorded/released ones.  I immediately bought “Tired Ghostly Town” when I found it on Chicago’s mostly punk/hardcore label Hewhocorrupts Inc.

This album, which I’ve probably listened to start to finish 200-300 times, is full of references to life for Al (or potentially someone else) growing up in Chicago within a blue collar working man’s family in a city of industry.  The struggle and consequences of providing for the people you love, even at the risk of your own health and well being, alongside questioning those that have created this environment in the first place.

In “Working Dream”, Al sings of the harsh realities of existence in this environment:

“I wish I had a pair of golden cuff-links
I wish I had a suit that’s woven fine
So I can take ya to your daddy’s funeral
And I can mend your heart as well as mine. Oh, I can mend your heart as well as mine.

Well all these things I wish for, they cost money
You won’t find that in a factory or a mine
All you’re gonna find at the days end
Is you’re a little closer to your time. Oh, you’re a little closer to your time.

Well I wish that we didn’t have to do it
If we didn’t have to do it we’d be dead
9000 days of your daddy’s life
Just to put a leaky roof over your head. Oh, just to put a leaky roof over your head

And we all know what it was that killed him
And you and I will never see a dime
Cuz’ to the man that put the cancer in him
A man ain’t but a number on a line, man a but a number on a line.”

I believe it’s thoughtful and politically influenced songwriting such as this that allows inclusion of Al on the fringes of Punk instead of pigeonholed as an “Americana Singer-Songwriter” as once coined by American Songwriter.  One thing for sure is that after shooting the shit with Al over the couple of days he was in Los Angeles, he can’t be defined as any singular thing or placed in a singular genre.  Throw in the fact that the guy fucking shreds the banjo in an entirely unique style straying from traditional bluegrass players and well, I’d say he’s Punk, he’s Bluegrass, he’s a Songwriter, he’s Al Scorch.

If you like what you’ve saw/heard here, please follow the links we provided to Al’s respective pages and support his past and new album so he can continue to create amazing music!  Special thanks to the Bloodshot family and their support of this session, sharing it, promoting it, etc..

*words by Travis Button

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