First Appeared in The Music Box, March 1999, Volume 6, #3
Written by John Metzger
Transplanted Brit Jon Langford stands at the heart of the insurgent country revolution. Fresh from leading the Pine Valley Cosmonauts through a rousing tribute to western swing great Bob Wills, Langford is determined to remain firmly entrenched in the spotlight. Last year, he reunited the Waco Brothers to record Waco World, the band's fourth album for Chicago's Bloodshot Records and its first release since 1997.
These days, Langford and his band, which features guitarist Dean Schlabowske, steel and 12-string guitarist Mark Durante, mandolinist Tracey Dear, drummer Steve Goulding, and bassist Alan Doughty, has a better grasp of country music than Nashville does. However, its steers clear of blindly reproducing the classic country sound. Instead, Waco World continues Langford's determination to put the final nail in the coffin of the alternative country movement by tightly wrapping the country sound in a thick cloak of pure punk angst. The result is a finely tuned, thirteen-song affair that makes a connection between the music of Hank Williams and that of The Clash.
Waco World is brimming with songs for the working man. Indeed, the Waco Brothers' lyrics are dark, desolate, and thoroughly drenched in a variety of fermented grains while its music is caught somewhere between a drunken brawl and the morning after. Hello to Everybody cops a country-rock ballad straight from the Rolling Stones, but the Waco Brothers does it better than the Stones has in years. Durante's steel guitar slips and slides underneath the melody, packing volumes of emotion in his understated presence. On Red Brick Wall, the Waco Brothers update Little Willie John's Leave My Kitten Alone, creating a supercharged, adrenaline-pumping number that features honky-tonk piano and Poi Dog Pondering's horn section. As the song concludes, Goulding kick-starts The Hand that Throws the Bottle Down, sending the group careening in a totally different direction. A powerful bass line laces the song with an animated undercurrent that guides the tune through its shimmering groove.
With a splash of country and a whole lot of punk, the Waco Brothers created a unique hybrid of American and British influences that is best washed down with one's favorite fifth. In addition, all of the tracks on Waco World, with the exception of the opening Pigsville, only improve with age. It's a sure sign that this album contains a batch of well-written songs that are sure to remain vital in the years to come.
Waco World is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1999 The Music Box