Home Read Now Hear This: Churchwood | Plenty Wrong to Go Awry

Now Hear This: Churchwood | Plenty Wrong to Go Awry

I'm getting caught up on the good albums that have come out lately. Like this one.

196

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Plenty Wrong to Go Awry is the fifth full-length album by Austin-based avant-garde blues band Churchwood. Even though the album was recorded in the summer of 2019 and mixed in the spring of 2020 it thematically addresses the current dystopian times we live in through a poetic and sometimes historical lens but still manages to have some fun on more traditional roots roadhouse tunes Tantamount and Fixin’ to Crawl. It possesses the dense, challenging music and guitar interplay that fans have come to expect from the band and will appeal to fans of Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits who like their poetry with some roots and garage-infused oomph.

Churchwood is the dream band for longtime musical compatriots guitarist Bill Anderson and singer Joe Doerr, who first united in the 1980s Austin group Ballad Shambles that morphed into Hand of Glory. Their two albums are now prized collectors items, and a chorus of those in the know rightly credit Hand of Glory with presaging the grunge sound that became the next big thing right at the time the band ended its run in 1992.

Vocalist, lyricist and blues harpist Joe Doerr was also the frontman for The LeRoi Brothers through their early ’80s heyday and has returned as frontman for the band over the past decade. While taking a break from rock ’n’ roll in the ’90s he earned two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in English from Notre Dame University and is currently a professor at Saint Edward’s University in Austin, in addition to his editing and writing work. Anderson was previously in the influential but underrated act Poison 13. He appears on many records with his other bands Bigfoot Chester, The Horsies, The Meat Purveyors, and on solo albums by Neko Case and Jon Langford, among others. His playing is soulful and technically adept but not flashy — Bill always plays to the betterment of the song.

In time Anderson circled back ’round to his original inspiration, the blues, but with an itch to refract the style’s down-home origins through a contemporary prism and update it for the digital age. “I was on this Captain Beefheart trip where I listened to him all the time, and it made me want to play blues music again, but not the tired old one-four-five shuffle,” he explains. Doerr was again his perfect vocal and lyrical foil. They rounded out the band with bassist-turned-drummer Julien Peterson, bass player Adam Kahan and guitarist Billysteve Korpi of rough-and-tumble garage act The Crack Pipes, forming a ferocious ensemble. Plenty Wrong to Go Awry marks the band’s first recording with new drummer Eric Bohlke since the departure of Peterson.

The band is now on a mission to relaunch the blues to the deltas of Mars and solar systems beyond, forging futurist roots for as long as it takes to fulfill their yin/yang goal of bringing it all back home while at the same time throwing the music out into the cosmos. “We can continue making records at this rate forever,” Doerr says of Churchwood’s creative fertility. “We always have ideas for songs.” So listen up now, lest you get left behind the curve.”