GravelRoad – The Bloody Scalp Of Burt Merlin

Knick Knack Records

Knick Knack Records

On their latest release – The Bloody Scalp Of Burt Merlin (don’t be scared to touch the cover) – Seattle’s GravelRoad continues to do all the stuff they do so well while adding new textures and depth to the mix. Bloody Scalp finds drummer Martin Reinsel, guitarist/vocalist Stefan Zillioux, and doer-of-what-needs-doin’ Jon Kirby Newman (guitar, bass, drums, vox) offering ZZ Top-style grease and Jon Spencer-style gristle, boiled up in a battered #3 galvanized washtub full of Delta hoodoo and Hendrixian vapors.

Consider the opener “The Run”, which comes barrel-assing out of the speakers with a killer one-chord groove foundation that might’ve been something John Lee Hooker would’ve laid down while playing a roadhouse in Electric Ladyland. Rather than breaking the tension, the chorus change-ups serve to ratchet up the darkness – and the Bo Diddleyness of the final wind-up before the outro is fair warning: either shake your butt or get out of the way, cuz GravelRoad’s a’comin’.

“Cocaine Baby” combines blistering tattered-speaker geetar skwonk and a growled-out vocal with little bits of psychedelic seasonings (the jury’s still out on whether the laugh at the very end is reassuring or the album’s most frightening moment); somewhere Slim Harpo’s ghost is grinning and stomping his feet to “Death Bed Blues”; “Maybe The Wind” is saturated with fine slide guitar and multi-purpose groove; and “Monkey With A Wig” should be required listening when it comes to the art of getting as nasty as nasty gets in one minute and fifty-one seconds.

But wait – what do you call the high-speed romp of “Med Pass!” – punk blues? (Dig the locomotive bass of guest Joe Johnson, who also adds low-end womp to “Cocaine Baby”.) Or how about “Last Night’s Dream”, which blends GravelRoad’s natural raunch with a Canned Heat-flavored sweetness? (Talking about ghosts: Bob “The Bear” Hite would’ve loved these crazy bastards.) And what’s the deal with “Space”, a nearly-eight-minute epic that morphs visions of tumbleweeds blowing across post-apocalyptic prairies with pockets of churning, twisted, rusty metal? Try to slap a label on that and make it stick, my friend.

Don’t go running off – click right HERE to read the conclusion of my Gravelroad review on

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