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Waco Brothers - Profile

  by Andrew Carver

published: 11 / 4 / 2002

Waco Brothers - Profile


The Waco Brothers are a "cowboy" supergroup, featuring members of the Mekons, Wreck, KMFDM and Jesus Jones. Andrew Carver profiles the band's five album Bloodshot label career

The Waco Brothers are a pair of Mekons, guitarist vocalist Jon Langford and drummer Stephen Goulding ; guitarist and vocalist Dean Schlabowske from spiky alternative rockers Wreck ; lap steel player Mark Durante from KMFDM ; Bottle Rocket bassist Tommy Ray and Tracey Dear, a mandolin player of no fixed address (Alan Doughty of Jesus Jones largely replaced Ray after their first album, 'To the Last Dead Cowboy'). The Brothers have a straight-ahead country sound, a jump beat, pedal steel, mandolin, standup bass and ringing, twanging guitars. The band is a little rough around the edges, particularly vocally, up until their fourth album, 'Wacoworld', where things become a bit more sophisticated. The songs follow the traditional cowboy themes of cheatin’, hurtin’, drinkin’and dyin’ — usually more than one per song, and sometimes all four. The lyrics are sometimes surreal; in the 'The Death of Country Music' on 'Cowboy in Flames" they sing about netting the bones of the "Jones and the Cashizz' from the “black pool of neglect” where Nashville has left them, grinding them to powder and inhaling them. The Waco Brothers’ songs seethe with fire and decay, where things go out in a blaze of glory or crumble to dust (that is, when it’s not taking a drunken stumble toward the nearest ditch). Sin and corruption loom large. Covers like Dorsey M. Dixon’s 'Wreck on the Highway,' (made famous by “King of Country” Roy Acuff) start off with things going bad. Frequently is heard a discouraging word.There’s also some of the Mekons’ left-wing politics (mind you, rooting for the underdog has a long history in country music). 'To the Last Dead Cowboy',   shows this tendency most strongly, with songs like 'Plenty Tough - Union Made', 'Bad Times (are Comin’ Round Again)' and 'Bill the Cowboy.' “Cowboy in Flames,” their second album, is generally considered their best, with all the fire intact, the singers in better voice. There are also winning covers: Johnny Cash’s 'Big River', 'White Lightning' by J.P. Richardson  (better known as the Big Bopper, J.P.'s song was a major hit for George Jones) and the aforementioned 'Wreck on the Highway' are handled with much love, and little reverence. Album three, 'Do You Think About Me?' follows '“... in Flames'' footsteps. The politics have become less explicit, but there’s still a storming cover of Neil Young’s'“Revolution Blues' on 'Do You Think ...' and the Waco Brother’s lyrical obsessions are still a slap in the face of complacency. 'Do You Think ...?' is the end of Waco Brothers, Stage 1 according to the liners. Stage 2  is album No. 4, 'Wacoworld,', the cover of which apes the art for the Yul Brynner flick Westworld. It’s not much of a departure. It’s a bit more produced, and the guitars a little less wild. There’s a healthy rafter of guests as well, for the first time outnumbering the band, adding vocals, washboard, accordion, some saxophone. Nothing here would seem out of place on other Waco brothers albums. There’s also a fifth album on Bloodshot, 'Electric Waco Chair' which is allegedly again much like the others. The Waco Brothers fit in snugly with the rest of the Bloodshot label, and anyone who fancies groups like the Sadies will be happy to dive in here.

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Waco Brothers - Profile

Waco Brothers - Profile

Waco Brothers - Profile

Waco Brothers - Profile

Waco Brothers - Profile

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New Deal (2002)
Sixth album of country-punk from Chicago-based British ex-pats, the Waco Brothers, which makes "a venerable effort to breath new life into the old C&W blue print"

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