Big Blood
Big Blood and The Bleedin' Hearts



by DadKungFu STAFF
April 24th, 2018 | 7 replies

Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Country-Fried Psychedelic Ghost Songs

From the hollow windows of the log cabin, empty-eyed faces peer out into the dusk

Big Blood are a bit of an enigma. Hailing from Portland Maine, their online presence is minimal, they only occasionally perform live and their prolific discography features an impressive 26 albums over their twelve years in existence. Ostensibly a four piece, two of the members of Big Blood seem to be fictional inventions of singers and multi-instrumentalists Caleb Mulkerin and Colleen Kinsela, a duo whose lo-fi country sound evokes smoke and kerosene, death and emptiness, hell, grace and ghost fire, all occasionally offset by an off kilter sense of humor that somehow makes the eeriness of their music much more genuine. On Big Blood And The Bleedin’ Hearts they are at their most unearthly, embracing their most avant-folk tendencies and making a spectral, unforgettable record that beggars any attempts to pigeonhole it.

From a half collapsed clapboard building, untuned piano music drifts over the sun baked dirt.

Big Blood take a sound rooted in Folk and Country and steep it in reverb, dissonance and avant-garde playfulness that twist the rigid forms of traditional Folk music into something at once haunting and slightly grotesque. There’s a constant sense of unreality to the music in its shambolic and discordant execution that is unsettling and nostalgic; an atmosphere that a backwoods David Lynch might conjure up, a subtle impression of something malevolent lurking behind the old time simplicity of the tunes that never quite makes itself known. It’s a heady, intoxicating mix that seems at times trancelike in its shamanic otherness, an atmosphere only enhanced by the dusty, ambient interludes of New Dish Rag and Curee.

If we're still alive and make it that means something/old hearts and hands join in/surround this pyre

The songs on the album are divided fairly evenly between male-led and female-led vocals, Caleb’s wavering, twangy tenor reminiscent of Jack White sans the garage rock swagger, Colleen’s voice truly unique, a mournful, piercing wail that is equal parts brittle and powerful. Following the strange, brief Dadaism of intro Bah-mun, Caleb’s opener Baron In The Trees is perhaps the most conventional sounding track on the album, a galloping backwoods country tune that is still suffused with that intangible otherworldly quality that permeates the rest of the album, filled with dissonant chimes, cryptic lyrics and clanging noise. The rest of Caleb’s tracks are certainly serviceable, the piano-saloon-of-the-damned anthem of The Birds & The Herds is particularly effective, reminiscent of the ghost music from The Shining if The Shining took place in an abandoned Old West mining town. Overall however, his songs pale in comparison to the desolate beauty of Colleen’s tracks, never more powerful than on Graceless Lady, a monolith of a tune, doom-laden and forbidding, languid, plodding and gorgeously bleak. Oh Country is similarly impressive, transcendently pretty in its ramshackle stars-and-cobwebs waltz, Colleen’s voice swooping in and out of the choral background, while chimes and oh-so-slightly slightly out of key banjo provides the percussive framework. Her voice is the true heart and soul of Big Blood, the piece that brings together and enhances the musical framework of the band.

The ghosts of the dust bowl sit around an abandoned campfire and mingle and laugh with the ancient dead of the Civil War.

For all its thematic heaviness and unconventionality, the music on the album is surprisingly accessible. Big Blood and the Bleedin’ Hearts is spare, affecting and spectral, but also playful in places, the brief, bizarre nonsense of the intro, Graceless Lady’s wailed out chorus or the blaring, tuneless recorders that close out Oh Country attesting that everything in Big Blood’s oeuvre isn’t somber, bleak abandonment. The album is haunting yes, but it seems these ghosts from the Maine woods have a sense of humor. It makes the outsider songcraft of Caleb and Colleen seem that much more sincere, an embrace of the weird for its honesty and audaciousness not simple kookiness for the sake of kookiness. It’s a poignant, stirring listen that doesn’t easily leave the listener’s mind and it stands as one of the more uniquely listenable albums in a genre not widely known for accessibility. For those with even a passing interest in the more left field end of the folk scene this is an album not to be missed.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
April 24th 2018


Album Rating: 3.0

amp her sand

Staff Reviewer
April 24th 2018


Album Rating: 4.5

There were three different versions of this album on the review drop down menu, I took a wild guess and it turned out to be the wrong one. Mods please delete when you get the chance

April 24th 2018


Album Rating: 4.0

Yay Big Blood review

Staff Reviewer
April 24th 2018


Album Rating: 4.5

Issues seem to be fixed thnx kind mods. Album rules please check it out

January 11th 2020


Fire on Fire's The Orchard is done by the same guys.

May 14th 2021


Graceless Lady is and always was the most 5/5 song ever made tbh

Staff Reviewer
July 14th 2023


Album Rating: 4.5


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