The Onion A.V. Club
Al Scorch is a top-notch storyteller who suggests a poetic version of Studs Terkel, and his music is every bit as strong. If anyone on the current Chicago music scene has the makings of a major artist, it’s Al Scorch, and Circle Round the Signs is an album that deserves and demands a wide hearing.
Al Scorch plays the banjo like he knows the most scenic spots on the Appalachian Trail. The 30-year-old roots musician, who grew up on Chicago’s northwest side, takes inspiration from all over—he also loves hardcore punk—but his creative process is less about inhabiting different genres and eras and more about putting himself into other people’s heads. “So much of songwriting is getting out of your own experiences and trying to think of what it’s like to be other people,” Scorch says. “When everyone tries to always be aware of experiences different than their own, and to extend people understanding and compassion, that’s a world-changing thing. That’s not to say writing songs saves the world—that is not the fucking case at all. It just so happens that the mechanism is the same.”
The finest country-punk-folk-bluegrass banjo player in the country.
The arrangements are tremendous, the playing and the vocals, whilst excellent, have an appealing rawness, again so befitting this edgy music. Al Scorch’s songs are incredibly literate and tell some quite compelling tales.
Each song is a story from the heart and the lyrics are put together exceptionally well; Al Scorch and the Country Soul Ensemble will breathe fire and brimstone into each and every track when performed live.