While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years Of Bloodshot Records
Bloodshot Records 
Fire Note Says: Happy Birthday Bloodshot Records!
Album Review: Twenty years is definitely something to be proud of and for Chicago’s Bloodshot Records they get a standing ovation. Bloodshot has had an endless catalog of great artists that include Ryan Adams, Neko Case, Alejandro Escovedo, Justin Townes Earle, Old 97’s and the list goes on and on! This 2 record compilation celebrates that history and features a slew of artists paying their tribute to the label by covering a track from Bloodshot’s extensive song list.
I will tell you right from the beginning that this double album is a beast with its 38 songs running over the 2 hour mark in length. That shouldn’t scare you because there is plenty here to keep you entertained but it does take some commitment. Looking through the list there are some clear stand out artists here like Superchunk taking on Ryan Adams “Come Pick Me Up,” Ted Leo offering up a Waco Brothers cover, Andrew Bird honoring Robbie Fulks, Blitzen Trapper with another Ryan Adams track and Ben Kweller digging a bit deeper with his Meat Purveyors cover. These more known artists will be the initial draw to While No One Was Looking but the lesser known artists is really where this compilation shines.
The weathered vocal of William Elliott Whitmore singing Neko Case’s “I Wish I Was The Moon” is absolutely fantastic as it hits the emotional nail on the head. Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers take on one of the most revered songs from the Bloodshot catalog in Ryan Adams “Oh My Sweet Carolina.” Bluhm singing over a piano is great but after the first chorus a simple horn plays and takes this version to another level. On Alejandro Escovedo’s “Last To Know,” Carolyn Mark gives the track an opposite sex perspective which makes for an interesting twist to a great song from a great songwriter.
Like most compilations not every take here is a winner but I can’t really name a track that just absolutely flops either. Most likely everyone will find something they like here or discover a new artist they should check out. One surprise for me was The Handsome Family’s cover of Bottle Rockets “1000 Dollar Car” which just seemed to fit perfect or The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band country fried version of Ha Ha Tonka’s “St. Nick On The Fourth In A Fervor.” Another personal favorite is the artist Koji and his cover of Ben Weaver’s “East Jefferson.” Just him and an acoustic guitar seemed the way it should have been played.
The bigger part of this compilation is really remembering to celebrate Bloodshot’s birthday. They have made a very large imprint for their time here and given the music world plenty to enjoy. While No One Was Looking may not be something I go back to that often, it really does highlight the importance of indie labels like Bloodshot and the artists they support. Without risk takers like Bloodshot, there just might not have been a Ryan Adams, Neko Case or the countless other acts that they have put their stamp of approval on over the years. Here is hoping they keep doing what they do for another twenty and beyond!
Key Tracks: “I Wish I Was The Moon” – William Elliott Whitmore / “Oh My Sweet Carolina” – Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers / “Dragging My Own Tombstone” – Ted Leo
Artists With Similar Fire: All Bloodshot Artists
Bloodshot Records Website
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– Reviewed by Christopher Anthony