Big Medicine Head rolled out of Santa Cruz, California and has rambled on a path that stretches east to New York, north to Seattle and across the Midwest. Along the road, the band has recorded albums, played prestigious gigs in big cities and played low rent hoedowns in dives and honky-tonks across the country.
The music of Big Medicine Head is marked by country inflected power pop, wry social observation, and rolling American highway imagery; all behind some whiskey and very little sleep. The band's path has taken them through college towns across California, trashy neon bars in Reno, roadhouses in Illinois, and basement venues and rooftops Greenwich Village.
The music paints pictures of an American landscape that is both stark and optimistic. The title track from the second BMH album, The Queen of the Western Hemisphere, describes a “mythic highway that is only traveled by the bravest of women”:
"She filled the radiator up
with gun powder whiskey and beer
running red lights
on the road that led her to here
chrome, tail fins and a
rosary tied to the grill
She’s been in
every American town"
Beyond the friendly confines of Santa Cruz, Big Medicine Head has enjoyed success in the US at large. Their first album, Rex Hotel (Broken Records) was critically acclaimed, and enjoyed its share of college radio airplay. Curiously, "Jesus’ Favorite Dress" (the featured track from Rex Hotel) charted well in rural bible belt areas of the country. Go figure. Another track, The "Lonesome Desert Crawl", was featured on a CMJ compilation album along with Steve Earle and They Might Be Giants. Big Medicine Head was a featured act at the CMJ Music Festival in New York City.
Big Medicine Head’s music is a blend of freeway underpass folk, beer swilling punkabilly.
Big Medicine Head has always been as much about an ethos as it has been about the mechanics of rock and roll. From the beginning, there was a sense that there was something out there in the country that needed to be discovered. Singer/songwriter Robert Gemmell describes putting the band together, and the beginning of Big Medicine Head’s journey into Americana:
“It was something that you don’t see every day – like a train wreck on the beach. We stood around this pile of chrome and rusted parts, wondering if a car could be assembled that was capable of navigating on the open road”.