wino-strut & Friends Bloodsicle on blood red vinyl, with liner notes, extra photos and credits.
wino-strut & Friends are fault line rock. LA music. Waves of coastal, canyon rock colliding with hot scrub-oak-folk in quakes and tremors. Their live shows are described as “high energy, raucous, and debaucherous” by LA Weekly, and their singles have been in regular rotation on KEXP’s weekly specialty show The Roadhouse for years. wino-strut is the nom de guerre of David Phillips, a multi-disciplinary artist regarded by Aquarium Drunkard as “bold, conceptual, avante garde”. wino-strut & Friends’ Bloodsicle is a collaborative rock ‘n’ roll record, recorded in Los Angeles. Inveterate artists, the band careens through American roots music like the rolling thunder revue on a runaway train. wino-strut & Friends is a band annealed in the dive bars of LA, featuring roots music staples like mando, dobro, and fiddle equally with electric guitar, conga, and casaba.
There is a vintage rock sound about Bloodsicle. Mystical Scarlet-Rivera-style electric violin, cosmic country intermissions, psych rock sounds, and even a surf rock track. Like his world renowned paintings, wino-strut’s songs seem to tell the stories of faceless, picaresque heroes; unlucky drifters smeared by cruel circumstance onto the harsh landscapes of the American Southwest.
On the titular, opening track, Phillips’ vocals come in raspy, as if he’s spent days in the desert heat. He’s gone bughouse about the sisyphean labors of love andastr late capitalism, wailing about a “Bloodsicle”, over the grinding rhythm of electric guitar. Lead electric pierces the air like a hawk’s call. Electric violin yelps riffs like a pack of coyotes. Three minutes in, no spiritual or musical reprise, the band breaks into a dub trance (yeah, they did) and returns from it on another triumphant rock riff. It’s the first taste of the moody musicality -breakdowns, tempo-changes, western soundscapes, meditative études -- that are part of their story.
Phillips may be the last practicing expressionist American painter, but he’d rather tell you about how to build a canvas, or talk about obscure american roots rock records. Phillips himself is a native of Oklahoma, where all good things come from (see: Woody Guthrie, Willis Alan Ramsey, JJ Cale, Leon Russell, Jim Keltner). He came to Los Angeles without a penny to his name. Bloodsicle is the sound of his western-american odyssey from dust bowl through death valley, recorded by Kelly Wininger at FooTFooT, and Kevin Jarvis at Sonic Boom Room, and mastered by David Glasser at Airshow Mastering. His band is Robert Cook (lead guitar), Omar El Deeb (bass guitar), Alexander Loweth (drums, cabasa), Guy Welles (electric violin, backup vocals), and Bloodsicle features contributions from Ms. Bobbye Hall, percussionist for the legendary Wrecking Crew, who played in bands for Bill Withers, Carole King, and James Taylor.
“Natural Home”, jangles along to Hall’s shamanic congas, and “Higher Ground'' does uphill metaphysical battle to her beat. “Never Ends” roars open with classic double percussion sections and dueling strings, including electric violin and mandolin. It’s a guitar rocker on which Phillips growls “my situation, gone from bad to worse” and wails “honey these hard times / lookin like they never end” among the inertia of a band crashing through hardship. “My Whole Heart Is Blue” dazzles, dewy slick with dobro, violin, and mando. It slides among Robert Cook’s loping drums, forming percussive waves of heat forming a mirage in the middle of the album.
By the lysergic “Number 13” one begins to realize wino-strut’s acid-western music as another in the long list of his great surrealist compositions. He’s well practiced at mixing mediums to evince life’s uncertainty --it’s unscrupulous characters, and it’s unpredictable beauty-- with bold colors and geometry, and he does so with the certain-teed American dependability of folk and blues. Bloodsicle is roots music galvanized, shambolic dirges in the spirit of Link Wray’s dangerous, suggestive rock ‘n’ roll.
This is handcrafted, working class rock, from a band of topanga canyon dust devils. Locomotive, traditional sounds teetering on the precipice of civilization, tumbling into the sea.
Bloodsicle is the inaugural record on the new American Standard Time Records label. It’s out on October 30th, 2020.