(Bloodshot Records, my beloved outlaw country indie record label out of Chicago, is celebrating their 17th anniversary of releasing consistently spectacular records this upcoming weekend, and though I’ll be otherwise occupied down here in the Triangle, the next couple of days on the blog will be devoted to Bloodshot and how much they kick ass. Tomorrow, a preview of some of Bloodshot’s most recent releases; Wednesday, a top ten list of my own all-time favorite Bloodshot releases. Stay tuned!)
Dear Bloodshot Records,
I just finished listening to my entire playlist — almost 700 tracks; 683 to be exact — of music you’ve released over the 15+ years. You even tweeted about it, when I first mentioned that listening project on Twitter. And over the last few months, I’ve just been reminded, so fiercely, of how much I love you guys, and the music you put out and the artists you support, and the way you do all of that.
When I lived in Chicago, I was pretty unhappy and lonely, though I didn’t really know it at the time. What I did know, though, was that Bloodshot’s music was the one thing in the whole city that just belonged to me, not to my friends or The Ex or anyone else (except for my next door neighbor’s best friend Scott, but Scott’s another story entirely). When I think about living in Chicago, I do think about being unhappy and longing for change, which is how I ended up in North Carolina and stayed here, but I also think, very clearly, of going to Bloodshot shows and feeling, at those shows, at home and safe and comfortable in my own skin, from the very first one I went to. Those sets, Rex Hobart and the Waco Brothers and Kelly Hogan and so many others, are some of the only times I was purely happy in Chicago, without worry or fear or sadness creeping in.
Your artists don’t play in North Carolina as much as I wish they did. I miss the residencies at the Empty Bottle, and the Hideout. But I still go see them whenever they’re here, and I still buy your releases and write about your albums, because I still believe in what you guys do. In 2009, a Bloodshot release — Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South — was my album of the year; in 2008, it was as well, the amazing Golden Hour from Firewater. In 2011, so far, the Tonk and Death of a Decade are the far frontrunner to take my top honor again. Three albums in four years; you’re doing something right, there. You guys consistently release, showcase, and sign artists that I fall completely in love with; I trust your taste like I trust no other record label’s. You guys make me believe in the indie record label, and the place of the label in the music industry today, even as the big guys fail. The big guys fail, and you guys are still kicking ass.
In fact, you’re kicking so much ass that a couple of months ago, I put you guys on my life list; item #41, see every active Bloodshot Records artist live. You’re the only record label specifically namechecked in that list. If you could schedule some tour dates in Chapel Hill, that would help a lot, but I’m working on it, and I’m loving it while I do.
I’m very much looking forward to flying out to Chicago in a few years, to photograph your party and help you guys celebrate your 20th anniversary, which will be close to ten years of my loving what Bloodshot does.
So thanks, Bloodshot. Thanks for keeping me grounded in Chicago when I lived there, and for reminding what I miss about it now that I don’t. Thanks for putting out amazing music and supporting amazing artists, for making one of my favorite shot glasses of all time (the old “death of country music” one) and for all the stickers that have adorned my cars and my laptops and the bathroom walls at the Pour House in Raleigh. Thanks for releasing early albums by Ryan Adams and the Old 97s and Neko Case, because even if they grew up elsewhere, they got found on Bloodshot.
Thanks for kicking ass. I love y’all more than I can say.