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Jon Langford

Damn, Jon Langford's got a lot of music welling up inside him -- he's a member of the UK's primo punk/post-punk/alt-country stalwarts the Mekons; Chicago's country-charged rowdies the Waco Brothers; Bloodshot Records' house band, the Pine Valley Cosmonauts; and, of course, he puts out the occasional solo album.

All the Fame of Lofty Deeds is Langford's tip o' the hat to both country music and his adopted city of Chicago -- but don't expect Langford to humbly genuflect at the altars of Johnny Cash, Springsteen, and George Jones. Deeds is the best kind of tribute, loaded not only with respect for its subjects but also middle-finger, barroom irreverence and a boozy sense of wry, focused indignation. Langford has an outsider's appreciation for the USA's faults and its strengths, and he finds room for cautious hope: "The country is not stupid/Even though it's silent/It still has eyes and ears/It just can't find its mouth." He mixes the slightly ragged, rockin' urgency of Highway 61-era Dylan with Merle Haggard's workingman's-blues twang on "Hard Times" and "Nashville Radio," and the jaunty, Floyd Cramer-styled honky-tonk piano belies the bile-soaked lyrics ("Success on someone else's terms don't mean a fucking thing") on the wonderfully fatalistic "Over the Cliff." If Hank Williams Sr. were alive today (and a member of the Green or Socialist parties), he'd quite likely record an album that sounds as tart, cool, and wild as this one. -- Mark Keresman

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