Having already released one 10-year reunion album with Freakwater, Bloodshot Records go for the double with the first studio recordings by the Waco Brothers since 2005. The band was formed in 1994 in Chicago when singer Jon Langford decided he wanted to pursue a more Cash meets Clash sound alongside his other outfit, Leeds punk crew The Mekons (which also spawned alt-country act Sally Timms) and currently lines up as Langford, Jesus Jones bassist Alan Doughty, drummer Joe Camarillo, Tracey Dear on mandolin and Dean Schlabowske on guitar and vocals.
The past decade doesn’t appear to have dimmed their energy, the album surging out of the stables, guitars twanging, with the Heartland rocking DIYBYOB, the opening line announcing “This is the first track from the last album. No one knows which way this ship will head.” That’s not true of course, as what follows is pretty typical Waco fare, namely solid barroom country rock driven by a punk urgency and riddled with catchy hooks and choruses occasionally punctuated by relatively more restrained moments. Comparisons and references can be easily made. Receiver, for example, recalls The Everlys doing The Price of Love, while Devil’s Day suggests a countrier side of Graham Parker and the Rumour and Lucky Fool recalls the heady days of bands like The Rainmakers.
They also deliver a fine beer and denims cover of The Small Faces classic All Or Nothing and, although it’s unlikely Langford or the others are familiar with him, the punchy punky pop Had Enough could easily have come from Alan Hammonds, formerly of Nuneaton cult crew The Kidda Band and now operating as Johnny Black as part of both Black Starr and The Persecuted.
This is the stuff to pack liquor washed Texas honky tonk dance floors, where they will certainly appreciate the politically fuelled songs about the working man and the oppression of the system (such as the paranoia-veined We Know It) as much as they do the muscle in the guitar chords and driving drums. Elsewhere, marrying a T.Rex and Bo Diddley beat with a similar druggy swirl to How Soon Is Now, the organ underpinned Building Our Own Prison rolls along on a syncopated “Click clack clackety-clack” hook and they shut up shop with a bouncy, fiddle and mandolin-led, fist punching, foot stomping version of Jon Dee Graham’s Orphan Song. The only minor disappointment is the punk-country title track itself, which never quite musters the punch it promises, but otherwise this is a rousing let’s go out, get drunk and wave the blue collar flag return to glory.
Review by: Mike Davies
Out Now via Bloodshot Records
Order via Amazon