Seventeen years after it was initially released, the one-and-only album from Shithook is coming out again. This time, “When a Boyscout Gets the Blues” is on vinyl, courtesy of Sower Records and its owner, Michael Semrad Jr.
“I came across a copy of it in Stu’s store (Recycled Sounds) on CD,” Semrad said. “I put it in my car (stereo), and it’s been there ever since. The record’s not only (filled with) really good songs, it’s well produced and he (Phil Shoemaker) did it in his basement. But nobody who goes and sings with Shithook knows anything about it. It kind of breaks my heart.”
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By: L Kent Walgamott
To introduce that side of Shithook to those who have come to sing with the band in the two decades it’s been doing live karaoke at Duffy’s and to give old fans a shot at a new version of the disc, Semrad hatched a plan — reissue it on vinyl on his label.
The deal quickly was made when Shoemaker ran into Semrad at the first Nebraska Folk and Roots Festival in the Railyard in July 2014.
“He’d just discovered the ‘When a Boyscout Gets the Blues’ CD and said ‘Boy, I’d like to put that out on my label,” Shoemaker said. “I said, ‘Go ahead.’ That’s what’s happening.”
The happening will be Saturday at Chez Hay Concert Hall, 210 N. 14th St., when Shithook will play a release party for the newly pressed vinyl version of the album.
Look for the band to play nearly all the songs off the recording during the show.
“None of us had listened to it for a while, but it’s pretty good I think,” Shoemaker said. “The funny thing is, the group is still intact. Every once in awhile, we go play someplace besides karaoke, and we play all that material, and it’s pretty good. We had a lot of other material besides what was recorded, and we can play all that, too. We don’t even rehearse. We play it and just look at each other like, that’s good.”
One song — “My Kind of Ugly,” which name drops the no-longer-in-existence Royal Grove — had to be eliminated for the vinyl release. Album buyers, however, will get it plus three previously unreleased tracks on a digital download that comes with the purchase.
The download is appropriate not only because it provides extra songs. The vinyl version was taken from the digital master of the original recordings, which were done to tape at Shoemaker’s home studio.
“The tapes are at the bottom of the landfill,” Shoemaker said. “I had a studio in my basement and at some point, I thought, ‘I’ve got to get rid of this.’ I sold it all. But before I did it, I tried to play some of the tapes to see if I should keep them. When you store 3M recording tapes in a damp basement, it all sticks together, and you can’t play it. I tried, but they wouldn’t even play. So I took the metal reels and sold them on eBay. I spooled the tape off into the trash, and it’s in the dump.
“I don’t know if that destroys the fantasy of it being all analog. But I’ve listened closely to the test pressing, and it sounds good.”
“When a Boyscout Gets the Blues” was critically well received on its initial release, getting reviewed in England’s Mojo magazine, a rarity for a small indie release with no publicity push. Critic/musician Cub Koda of Brownsville Station and “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” fame liked the record so much he recorded a version of the title cut.
And it got five stars from the Journal Star, whose critic wrote that the album was “a collection of loose, noisy backbeat-driven originals penned with a sense of humor and delivered with a maximum dosage of fun.” I gave “When a Boyscout Gets the Blues” five stars then. It gets an “A” now.
The vinyl arrived in Lincoln Monday from the pressing plant — in the Czech Republic.
“There are very few companies in America that press vinyl anymore,” Semrad said. “If you do get one that’s pressed in America, it’s probably really expensive. We go through an American company that gets the records pressed in the Czech Republic and, somehow, it’s cost effective for everyone. All the Sower Records bands go through that alley.
“You didn’t used to have to put that on the record before. But now that vinyl’s taking off a little more, you’ve got to say ‘Made in the Czech Republic.’”
Sower produced a limited number of the albums, which will be available at the release show and at Lefty’s Records, where you can get a ticket for the show and the record for $20.
Shithook will be joined by The Bottle Tops and A Ferocious Jungle Cat on Saturday’s 10 p.m. event, set to be more than just a show.
“There’ll be a giant masquerade ball, too, including the band,” Shoemaker said. “We’ve thought out our costumes, and they’re a laugh. And we’re actually going to have a rehearsal Wednesday night. We’re kind of thrilled about it really.”