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Waco calling

The Waco Brothers are an alt-country super-group comprised of punk rockers and other non-countrified types. Also, non-American types, since only one of the six members is a Yank, Dean "Deano" Schlabowske. The rest of the mob are Brits, including members of Jesus Jones, Revolting Cocks, and Graham Parker's Rumour as well as Big Chief Jon Langford, who used to head up the Mekons and still runs with the Pine Valley Cosmonauts. A Welshman like him might seem like an odd choice to co-front a band like this, but it's the fusion of his punk aesthetic with honky-tonk, rockabilly, and a whole lot of Bakersfield that makes their offerings so consistently remarkable. In today's market of Nashville pop, their sound and, more importantly, their punk spirit is a much-needed shot of hope in the arm of a flailing genre.

Waco's latest, Freedom and Weep, is another rock-solid bomb to drop on conservative America, and no track better exemplifies that than "Chosen One." Langford, in his twanged-up Welsh accent, sings, "Loaves and fishes, drugs and guns, one for all and all for one/dumb boy the patriot/one day you'll run out of luck." The knife breaks through the sternum and strikes the heart when he asserts, "Daddy says I was the chosen one/slay the dragon, make a buck." Schlabowske goes at it again on "The Rest of the World": "The champagne's still on ice/might as well down it tonight/it ain't gonna wait four more years/nor will your rights."

Freedom and weep

Waco Brothers
(Bloodshot Records)

It's "Drinkin' & Cheatin' & Death," though, that delivers the most subtle attack on the changing face of American culture - in particular, country music. "'Cos Country radio lost its bottle/started selling a fantasy/no drink', no killin' and the only D.I.V.O.R.C.E./is from reality, from history." It's funny, in an entirely non-funny way, that a bunch of Brits are the ones who need to point that out to the rest of us.

- Cole Haddon


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