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Bloodshot Bill’s music takes a cue from Jack Kerouac

Montreal’s Bloodshot Bill specializes in a primal mix of blues, country and rockabilly

Photo: Photo by Jonathan Racine, License: N/A

Photo by Jonathan Racine

BLOODSHOT BILL with JD Wilkes & the Dirt Daubers, the Wildtones

9 p.m. Friday, April 11 | Will’s Pub, 1042 N. Mills Ave. | willspub.org | $10-$12

It’s impossible to place Bloodshot Bill into any sort of neat box. Yes, the Montreal native is a prototypical one-man band: one hollow-body guitar, one bass drum, one hi-hat cymbal and one voice. Yes, he blends his supercharged gutter blues and primitive country with the garage-rock influence of close friends like Mark Sultan and King Khan. And yes, his fashion sense reeks of rockabilly, from his slicked-back hair (held in place by a signature line of pomade, no less) on down to his cuffed khakis.

But Bloodshot Bill is a man out of place and time. His prodigious discography rivals that of even the most mythologized bluesman. Musically, his electrifying riffs are on par with Lightnin’ Hopkins, Hasil Adkins and Gene Vincent; vocally, Bill can careen from Elvis croon to percussive growl to demonic yodel in the space of a single line.

In spirit and attitude, Bill feels cut from the cloth of Jack Kerouac circa 1949: a swarthy, fire-eyed man of Quebecois descent obsessed with plumbing the creative depths of a particular slice of old, weird America. Like Kerouac’s stories, Bill’s artistic expressions feel shockingly sincere, scintillating, even scandalous – particularly when he’s rocking and convulsing and spitting on stage in his trademark silk pajamas.

Unlike Kerouac, Bill isn’t much of a talker; in a genial but clipped phone interview, he momentarily lit up when asked about recording techniques (“I love putting echo and snapback delay on my records”), collaborative projects (“Playing with new bands and different friends keeps things really fresh for me”), standing out from the crowd (“I’m not really into scenes. … I feel like an outsider of whatever scene there is”) and promotional work, including a spaghetti-flavored lip balm and a spokesman turn for a Montreal bowling alley’s “Disgusting Burger” (“They asked me to be the Colonel Sanders face of it, which was a big compliment”).

But ask Bill to explore his fascination with old forms of American music and he keeps it as basic as possible: “I just love that real simple sound. I don’t really know what it is. An attitude, I guess.” Although Bill claims he’s more of a natural drummer (“My feet are always moving trying to find a beat”) than a guitarist (“I’m really horrible compared to a lot of people”), that old-school, in-the-raw attitude comes across full-force in a live setting. “When the musicians I like – Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, all that rockabilly stuff – were playing, they didn’t have any gadgets to use,” he says. “They were just going straight live. So, if they can do it, I can do it. Or I can at least try.”

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