interview with Jon Langford of the Waco Brothers

Just the naming of Jon Langford's diverse exploits would take enough space or time to distinguish him. A Welshman residing in Chicago, he is an inadvertently ambitious and rambunctious artist, whether with his famous punk-pop band The Mekons or his Alt-Country mates The Waco Brothers. The Wacos are both a Chicago and an Insurgent Country institution. That was a term coined by label Bloodshot Records probably for The Waco Brothers and the likes [including Alejandro Escovedo, originally from Rank and File] that crossed over from punk into Country, that formed the actual bridge that so many later crossed.

And Langford may well be the most multi-faceted person in the ever-growing crowd. His paintings and comic art are as famous as his songs, and his book Nashville Radio is a widely heralded collection of his art and writings. He's also made a trio of well-received solo records, as well as intermittently recording with a group called The Pine Valley Cosmonauts, put together originally to cut a selection of Johnny Cash covers, but which went on to do the same and more with the songs of Bob Wills. They cut three records full of songs about death (The Executioner's Last songs, vol.1-3) to benefit the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty. He's also staged a multi-media show of spoken word, music and video in several cities called "The Executioner's Last Songs" and hosted "The Eclectic Company," a weekly radio show out of Chicago.

But listing all those accomplishments makes this vibrant and irreverent soul sound more industrious than he paints himself or perhaps cares to be considered. He comes off a lot more like an unapologetically alive person who's having a helluva good time doing the things he likes to do, period. I greatly enjoyed meeting him on the phone in a very overdue conversation with one of the more interesting and influential artists in America today. Be absolutely sure to pick up a copy of the latest smashing release from the Waco Brothers, The Waco Express Live & Kickin' at Schuba's Tavern Chicago. Audio clips on the Listen page.

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