Blister Soul   Year: 1995 | Run Time: 53:04

©1995 Capricorn/Fingerprint. Produced by John Keane. Co-produced by Bill Mallonee, Chris Donohue, Dan Russell. All songs written by Bill Mallonee except "Tempest" written by Bill Mallonee and Chris Donohue. ©1995 Irving Music, Inc., Allegiance Music, Russachugama Music and CyBrenJoJosh (all administered by Irving Music, Inc.) BMI

Track List

    1. Blister Soul [3:53] YouTube
    2. Five Miles Outside Monroe [3:05] YouTube
    3. Skin [5:00] YouTube
    4. Offer [4:30]
    5. Baalam's Ass [3:45]
    6. Bethlehem Steel [4:00]
    7. Tempest [2:16]
    8. Bolt Action [4:20]
    9. Parting Shot [5:37] YouTube
    10. Real Down Town [3:51]
    11. Certain Slant of Light [5:02]
    12. Unsuccessful [3:20]
    13. Blister Soul (Reprise) [4:25]

    About Blister Soul

    Released May 23, 1995, Blister Soul finds Bill Mallonee "trying on the 20th century" and exploring the human condition and the price of love, using as metaphors characters like Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Whitman in an observation tower thinking about firing his rifle at pedestrians, and The Great Wallenda as he steps out onto a tightrope over Tellulah Gorge. It's an attempt to come to terms with the "strange economics" of grace that is "poured out on cold little misers," and this glimmer of redemption barely visible amid the depression, confusion, doubts, and deep dark secrets makes this album the logical successor to Killing Floor. Bill plays lead electric guitar on Blister Soul for the first time, assisted by former Vigilante guitarist Newt Carter on a few songs, and frequent Vigilante contributors Billy Holmes, John Keane, and Dog Mess Evans make appearances, giving the album a rich, soulful texture. The lyrics are as honest as they are quotable. "Tell me your deep dark secret / and I will tell you mine / Oh is that your deep dark secret? / Oh well never mind."

    Did you know?

    Blister Soul was recorded in January of 1995 at John Keane's studio in Athens. From start to finish, the record took three weeks to make. The guy on the back of Blister Soul is a very cold Chris Donohue (the photo was taken in 20 degree weather). On the title phrase, Bill says: "I wrote it in the van one day on the way to a gig and thought I'd find a way to use it some day. I think it is a pretty arresting title."

    Quotes from Bill Mallonee

    May 9, 1995: I think it's a gospel album. It's why I can get out of bed in the morning.

    May 9, 1995: I'm satisfied with it being primarily a gospel record, where the big doctrines of the fall and grace and mercy are really in sharp belief. I think in a lot of ways people might hear it as being a down record. There's some songs that are dark on it. But there's the other side of the coin too.

    May 9, 1995: The concept? I just thought it was a cool phrase. I do think it is a concept record to a certain extent. That's why I have a song on the front and a reprise on the end with the phrase blister soul in it.

    May 9, 1995: You spend so many years trying to find your voice. I think we found it. I think somewhere around Killing Floor I knew what it was and I knew what it looked like. I think we are there now.

    Oct 23, 1996: The great thing about being a three-piece is that it really can weather a great deal of knocks and transitions. We've done it for the last twelve months, in spite of the fact that the record went to ten in the triple-A market, had great reviews, but it was very hard to make it sell. It wasn't in the stores very much.

    A Review by Doyle Srader / Sep 2, 2001

    My first. My favorite. No schoolboy crush, though. I first saw VoL live in December of 1993, but at the time I was sluttishly checking out every musical group that played a date in Athens, which is a whole awful lot. Saw them again some months later, after Blister Soul had been released, and was hooked.

    Blister Soul honestly isn't my favorite song to listen to from the CD. That's not chiefly because the recording is poor, but because this song is so much more fun to hear live. One good evocative phrase, spawning variations and images, but it just doesn't have maximum oomph unless Bill is pushing all his blood vessels into the danger zone trying to belt it for an audience.

    Five Miles Outside of Monroe: This one isn't "infectious," but refers to an ugly social evil that IS infectious. It offers some encouragement to those who believe in the evolutionary approach to outgrowing such pathologies. Me, I'm a former debate coach and current public speaking teacher, and I still love "All in all, brick by brick, I'll come and build my house / While I try to get real good at putting words in people's mouths."

    Skin: Don McLean hasn't had the last, nor the prettiest, word on Van Gogh. If you've ever heard Bill play the bridge in soaring arpeggios, you know he's being too modest when he talks down his guitar playing.

    Offer: One of the most fun songs on this CD for a groupful of Bible-believers to sing out loud while on a roadtrip.

    Baalam's Ass: I miss this song. I liked the accoustic version after Bill reclaimed it, but the energetic, rocking version is good stuff. I'd never really thought of the move from existential angst to allegiance to Christ as a seven-step program, but it makes a good image.

    Tempest: A good song for us oldsters to dance to. Cheerful. And the debate coach in me also likes to hear about "razing the arguments."

    Bolt Action: Woo, we've come a long way from Van Gogh, haven't we? Slightly less edge than it had in a rougher version that later showed up on a fan club tape. The repeating guitar bit at the beginning always sounded to me like something that a person on the brink of going mad might have playing through their head again and again.

    Parting Shot: Somehow much better late at night. Borders on self-parodying coffee shop troubadour stream of consciousness during daylight hours, but at night it seems more intimate and contained and thought-feeding.

    Real Down Town: Catchy. Danceable. And the beginning of the second verse is nicely blunt.

    Blister Soul Reprise: Brilliant move. As I tell my students, bring your listeners full circle to integrate a bunch of thoughts into one message. The driving beat of the opening track matches up with the exhausted crawl of this one to make the best bookending of an album since The Wall.

    This is more analyzing than I like to do, but this CD is just too good to miss. Even if I don't have something to say about every track on it (and I don't), I can put it in and play it from start to finish again and again, and never consider skipping anything. It's both comfortable and powerful, which is a combo that doesn't show up in too many creative works.


    Bill Mallonee: lead vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica ("Parting Shot")

    Chris Donohue: acoustic and electric basses, electric, 12-string and high string guitars, chapman stick, piano, background vocals

    John Keane: electric, pedal steel and 12-string guitars, percussion, background vocals

    Matt Donaldson: drums

    Phil Madeira: hammond b-3 organ, piano, accordion

    Newton Carter: electric guitar ("5 Miles Outside of Monroe," "Balaam's Ass")

    Joel Morris: drums ("Certain Slant of Light")

    Andy Carlson: violin

    John Evans: harmonica ("Bolt Action," "Bethlehem Steel")

    Billy Holmes: mandolin, hammond b-3, piano ("Real Down Town")

    Michael Guthrie: electric sitar

    Elissa Hadley: background vocals ("Certain Slant of Light")

    Laura Donohue: background vocals ("Offer")

    Tina Rudl: background vocals ("Offer")

    Produced, engineered and mixed by John Keane. Co-produced by Bill Mallonee, Chris Donohue and Dan Russell. Mixed February 1995 at Battery Studio, Nashville, TN. Assistant engineer: Lee Groitzsch. Mastered by Ken Love at Master Mix, Nashville, TN. Executive Producer: Dan Russell and Chuck Long. Art Direction: Diane Painter. Design: Griffin Norman at Ikon. Cover Concept: Chris Rank and Bill Mallonee. Photography: Chris Rank and Ben Pearson. Pre-production: Maxwell Sound, Mark Maxwell, engineer, Athens, GA; Double Edge Studio, Dave Spaulding, engineer, Haverhill, MA.

    Liner Notes


    brenda, joshua & joseph mallonee, bill and butch mallonee, dan orme and u.c., chuck & sandra long, dan, ali & jesse mark russell, john and jo keane, thom jurek, buddy and julie miller, michael and herb guthrie, joe and betsy kirk and 7 sisters of pleiades, arthur, vaudeville, crank, alice, newt, travis, david, bruce, mark maxwell, burke and barbara thomas, jennifer o'neil, jonas adler, jeffrey field, janet and rebecca heard, harold hallas, joel and rebecca russell, michael been, michael ross, steve sax & the entourage talent and family tree agency, circle of dust, chris martelo, del breckenfeld, lisa yucht and everyone at washburn guitars, david wykoff, phil walden and the capricorn team, lee groitzsch, george regis, jonathan horn, and lance freed and the rondor family

    chris extends special thanks to laura and all of the donohue family for their constant love and encouragement. also nashville cartage and sound, jim young, les and emily brooks, craig gunnoe.

    mega-thanks to all of the vol family, fans and friends who have been so generous in their support over the past year of "struggleville." we answer your mail! join our fan club! write us at vigilantes of love, p.o. box 48094, athens, ga 30604-8094

    IT'S PRETTY MUCH THE SAME EVERYWHERE YOU GO. You can sense it in the air. From the quiet reserved towns built on the steaming red clay of Georgia--to the toppling ruins and drug-scarred streets of Detroit--to the chaotic, bustling, elevated trains of Chicago--to the teeming, angry alienated misery of the Desire projects of New Orleans--to the opulent, reclusive estates of the Hollywood Hills. In the hearts of people across the country and around the world lies a desperation and emptiness that knows nothing about race, gender, class or language. The heart is the one place from where we can all speak. It aches with the unspeakable hunger and incessant whisper down in its core, that "something" is missing. What it is, is what remains unspeakable.

    Hailing from Athens, Georgia, singer/songwriter Bill Mallonee and his Vigilantes Of Love understand this implicitly, as he sings in "Blister Soul," the title track on this harrowing, yet triumphant disc you hold in your hands. "Yeah, the thing we cannot speak of, but the secret we all know, oh this blister soul." Mallonee has the unspeakable down; he knows its name, and he coaxes, nudges and scrapes at it in every verse in every chorus of every one of these 13 songs; he tries to draw it out of the darkness, so we can see it in the clear, unblinking light of day.

    Over the course of five records, Mallonee and his band have come ever-closer to the flame of human experience in all its complexity, ambiguity, uncertainty, passion and pathos. In a home-brew of rootsy rock, blues, country and folk, and in the urgency of Mallonee's haunted, hunted voice, one can hear the 20th century careening to a close. . .like a speeding train on the wrong side of the track. Their gritty message, no matter how we perceive it initially, is that it is grace that allows us to view our brokenness and loneliness, and grace that allows us the possibility of hope in response, no matter how all-encompassing darkness might seem. The blister soul is the starting point of everyone's burden and everyone's hope. In Mallonee's songs, passion and empathy come across convincingly and without artifice. Blister Soul is the sitting room where we can look at the searching and desire in our friends, family, lovers and enemies, and see them as extensions of ourselves. And you can sing along while doing it.

    On Blister Soul, the Vigilantes give us something we desperately need from popular music these days: affirmation. This band goes against the grain in their articulation of despair and alienation by taking it a step further: they tell us what they stand "for." In doing so, they reveal the true meaning of their name. They're vigilant about in dangerous times. Period.

    In the end, it doesn't matter where the music biz apparatus puts this one: it'll shatter the commercial shackles placed on it. The reason is simple: Mallonee and the Vigilantes insist on carrying their message by the simplest and most immediate means possible--rock and roll music. That it's done with integrity, passion, depth and immediacy, makes the album and accomplishment worth celebrating; that it's dictated with a nearly universal commonality that makes the band and its recordings absolutely necessary. This is the door, step inside.

    February 26, 1995






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