MEKONS | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader


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To record the new Natural (Quarterstick), this 30-year-old transatlantic combo convened in a farmhouse in the English countryside. The pastoral surroundings seem to have rubbed off on the wonderfully ragged, mostly acoustic music, but the album is hardly idyllic: darkness and doom lurk everywhere, and the lyrics return again and again to our powerlessness in the face of nature and the ultimate insignificance of our desires. It's the best Mekons record in more than a decade, reconciling the American hillbilly adaptation of British folk with the real deal and applying the band's rich mix of sounds--Susie Honeyman's rustic violin, Jon Langford's sorrowful guitar, and Rico Bell's boozy accordion, plus Lu Edmonds's oud and saz and the occasional bit of banjo, harmonica, or kalimba--to everything from crawling folk-rock to hijacked reggae. The emotional focus is the group singing, the resigned, weary voices given profound force by their number--we may all be going to hell, they seem to say, but we're not going alone. For the first of these two shows, with opener the Horse's Ha, the Mekons will focus on Natural; for the second, with opener Danbert Nobacon, they'll revisit their 80s stint with the Sin label, when they thought they were honky-tonkers. a 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $20, $16 kids and seniors. A --Peter Margasak

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