30 years ago, the independent record label Bloodshot Records was founded in Chicago by Rob Miller and Nan Warshaw, and quickly became one of the focal points and instigators of the independent country music revolution we’re currently enjoying the fruits of today. Helping to launch the careers of artists such as Ryan Adams, Neko Case, The Old 97’s, Justin Townes Earle, Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers and many more, Bloodshot laid the groundwork for insurgent country artists and labels to challenge the mainstream.
Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Ruby Boots, Robbie Fulks, Jason Hawk Harris, Laura Jane Grace, The Vandoliers, Scott H. Biram, The Yawpers, The Banditos, Murder By Death, and The Mekons were some other acts signed to the label. But in October of 2021, Bloodshot was officially shuttered after 2 1/2 tumultuous years following a sexual harassment scandal and accounting concerns.
The closing of Bloodshot Records was a significant blow to a legacy independent label, and left a dozen or so independent roots acts adrift. On October 23rd, 2021, it was announced that Exceleration Music had purchased the catalog of Bloodshot Records, and intended to actively promote the catalog while making sure artists were fairly compensated for any back-owed royalties.
“Bloodshot is a vitally important part of American music history, a genre-defining label founded on passion and vision, dedicated to bringing a unique set of artists from its musical orbit to the world,” said Dave Hansen of Exceleration Music. “It represents exactly the kind of company that fits Exceleration’s founding ethos, which is to preserve and enhance the legacies of extraordinary independent companies and artists. We look forward to working to keep the Bloodshot history alive and relevant for many years to come.”
But over a year after the purchase, nothing was heard from Bloodshot’s new owners. Numerous queries from Saving Country Music went unanswered. But recently the label restarted activity on the label’s social media pages, and last week, announced their official restart with a new release coming up in May.
It’s still unclear if any of Bloodshot’s previous artists will work with the new incarnation of the label, but Saving Country Music reached out to a dozen or so artists that were signed to the label before the implosion and sale, and it appears the new owners are making good on the company’s old commitments, at least from the responses received.
“There’s no lingering stench from the old company as far as I’m concerned,” songwriter and performers Robbie Fulks tells Saving Country Music. “It would have been great to have the money they owed me at the time it was owed, when it was worth more and I needed it more, but in the interval between Nan’s leaving and the new start-up, they made things right with me. The new guys have seemed fine so far, though I’m not working with them on music, just receiving statements. They don’t have that ‘we’re all just like scruffy hard-drinkin’ college buddies’ spirit of the old team, but who cares about that.”
For the first Bloodshot Records release back, engineer/producer Tucker Martine Jr. is paying tribute to his father, Nashville Songwriter Hall of Famer Layng Martine Jr. with a tribute album called Music Man. It will be released on Bloodshot Records in conjunction with the label Kill Rock Stars on May 19th. Bill Frisell, k.d. lang, Peter Buck of R.E.M. and more contribute to the project. Now 81 years old, Layng Martine Jr. wrote songs for Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Reba McEntire, Pam Tillis, Kathy Mattea, and Ray Stevens among others. To pre-order/pre-save Music Man, Click Here.
This is just the beginning of the restart of Bloodshot Records, and we’ll have to see what happens from here. But it is reassuring to see the label name back out there promoting the back catalog, and to hear that the artists are getting taken care of, at least the ones that responded to Saving Country Music’s queries.
When Bloodshot Records first started among the “punk-gone-country” phase of the country music underground in the early 90s, nobody envisioned someday that what they started would end up not just disrupting the power center of country music on Music Row, but rise to begin to challenge it like we’ve seen in recent years with the success of Tyler Childers, Cody Jinks, and Zach Bryan, who can very much trace their lineage back to the grassroots work Bloodshot Records helped start.
For years the Bloodshot label immediately instilled a level of street cred behind an artist. Hopefully this will continue into the future.