Jon Langford & the Pine Valley Cosmonauts | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jon Langford & the Pine Valley Cosmonauts 

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JON LANGFORD & THE PINE VALLEY COSMONAUTS

Jon Langford plays around town so often--with the Waco Brothers, Skull Orchard, and even the bicontinental Mekons--that it's easy to get lax about checking out yet another one of the Welsh-born Chicago resident's bands. But to truly understand what makes those other outfits tick, it helps to see the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, with whom the veteran punk singer and guitarist stares long and hard into the repertoires of his favorite country-and-western artists and finds his own reflection. The Cosmonauts' only recording to date, Misery Loves Company (Scout), draws from the songbook of Johnny Cash, whose rage against hypocrisy, identification with the proletarian underdog, and capacity to find humor in the most dire of circumstances are all enduring themes in Langford's own work. For this concert the Cosmonauts will play the western swing of an equally apt idol, the great Bob Wills. Wills blended crooning singers and swinging horn charts with Texan fiddles and hotdogging steel guitars, forging a link between the prewar big bands and the honky-tonk sound of artists like Merle Haggard; what he means to Langford is clear in Langford's prints and paintings. His foreboding portrait of Wills signing his record contract laments not only the country singer's disastrous experience with the music business but the artist's as well. In emulation of the revue format Wills favored with his Texas Playboys, the Cosmonauts have recruited a veritable who's who of local alt-country vocal talent, including former Texas Ruby Jane Baxter Miller, the Handsome Family's Brett Sparks, Chris Mills, Edith Frost, Robbie Fulks, and Kelly Hogan. Saturday, 10 PM, Fitzgerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118. BILL MEYER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Jon Langford photo by Marty Perez.

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