Al Scorch grew up in Chicago, with its storied history of corrupt power at the top and righteous fighters and big dreamers at the bottom. From the town that gave the world characters like Studs Terkel, Upton Sinclair, and the anarchists in Bughouse Square, Scorch adds his voice to the choir with the enthusiasm and charisma of a Maxwell Street preacher. He eyes the prize of that ever-elusive promised land that’s worth scrapping for, wherever or whatever it may be. With a stentorian bullhorn of a voice, he exhorts, not with a holy book in his hand, but a banjo and guitar. He’s a messenger and a conduit, a believer that a soul-stirring song will march you forward.
Balanced on wedges of punk, old-time string band, American and European folk, and soulful balladry, Al is an entertainer, road warrior, storyteller, and one helluva musician. His second album and Bloodshot debut Circle Round the Signs (2016) is built on a sonic framework sharing an intersection with the Bad Livers’ lawless next-gen take on traditional country & bluegrass, and Black Flag’s burn-it-all-down revolt and breakneck tempos.
If you’ve been around the Chicago music scene over the last few years, it’s likely that you’ve seen Al Scorch. While the city can be a mishmash of punk bands, free jazz, hip hop MCs, and everything in between, Scorch finds a way to traverse genres and get the crowd’s feet stomping in unison, no matter the venue or demographic breakdown.
We’ve seen him in varying scenarios both in and outside our collective hometown, always bringing audiences into his corner before his blistering sets are through. He has crushed crowds with his mutating Country Soul Ensemble, opening for acts like Screaming Females and Saintseneca. He’s had listeners hanging on every word during solo performances, while sharing the stage with heavy-hitting songwriters a la Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music) and Jim Adkins (Jimmy Eat World). He can hold his own on bills with progressive wizards like Danny Barnes and Peter Rowan, too. And he’s even encouraged local voters to get to the polls in the hilariously rapped “The City Hall Shuffle” video.
Scorch’s music and lyrics straddle the line between bone-chilling, literary testimonials and boisterous, revival tent revelry. There are elements of bluegrass and country throughout, at times evinced by his breakneck clawhammer banjo technique and poignant acoustic guitar takes. Balancing wedges of punk, old-time string band, American and European folk, and soulful balladry, Scorch is an entertainer, DIY road warrior, storyteller, and one hell of a musician.