Jon Langford embraces the musical legacy of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, with his latest project, but still comes out sounding like himself | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Jon Langford embraces the musical legacy of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, with his latest project, but still comes out sounding like himself 

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click to enlarge Jon Langford

Jon Langford

Juan Perez-Fajardo

Welshman Jon Langford’s love and fascination for American musical culture has long pulsed at the center of his work, whether he was sending his pioneering punk band the Mekons toward honky-tonk or forming the Waco Brothers to honor the forgotten sounds of Nashville. In 2015 Langford, a longtime resident of Chicago, contributed visual artwork to an exhibition at the Country Music Hall of Fame celebrating Nashville’s musical legacy, and by chance he met bassist and producer Norbert Putnam—a key figure behind the nexus of soul, country, and gospel music recorded over the decades in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Putnam was so taken with Langford’s work and music that he invited him to come down and record. The result of their time together is Four Lost Souls (Bloodshot), the singer’s salute to the region—though wisely, he doesn’t betray his own artistic compass. Instead Langford zeroes in on a subtle, largely timeless strain of roots-tinged rock, working with Muscle Shoals vets (bassist David Hood and pianist Randy McCormick), Nashville pedal steel guitarist Pete Finney, and Chicago collaborators including guitarist John Szymanski and singers Bethany Thomas and Tawny Newsome (who together provide a slightly gospelized analog to the indelible harmonies of Sally Timms in the Mekons). As usual, his songs address working-class plights free of any corny sloganeering and are delivered to consistently inject a fighting spirit. Wearied as Langford is by the current world we find ourselves living in, he refuses to lay down his sense of righteousness.   v


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