Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Another winner at Bloodshot Records. Jon Langford is a living legend. He fronts the iconic British punk band, The Mekons. The Mekons celebrate 40 years together this year. Langford still found the time to make this fine album, Jon Langford’s Four Lost Souls.
This is serious country music. Langford has been in the US for a while and he gets the music. He has absorbed Americana in all of his blood and exposed surfaces. An expert singer and songwriter, Jon also knows how to arrange a beautiful song.
This album was made in Muscle Shoals, AL, which as Jon’s press release states, “—world famous players who have performed on all the songs you ever loved—.” That is not opinion, that is fact. Some of the songs that were made there include Wild Horses – The Rolling Stones, When A Man Loves A Women – Percy Sledge, Mustang Sally – Wilson Pickett, I’ll Take You There – The Staples Singers, I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) – Aretha Franklin, Tell Mama – Etta James, etc….. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.
Making an album in a mystical place like Muscle Shoals can be both risky and brilliant. Risky – just look at the competition, there are a lot of legends that made their best work in The Shoals. That is a high bar. Brilliant – there is a plethora of uber talented musicians and producers that seem to bring out the best in the people they work with. Fortunately in Jon’s case, the move was brilliant.
If you are looking for a masterpiece, stay tuned. You found it here. It just so happens that the name of this tune is…Masterpiece (Track 9). It is pure country, like a flawless diamond. The writing, singing, backing vocals, and pedal steel parts are out of this world. The lead vocals provided by Tawny Newsome are moving beyond words.
If you like the harder stuff, don’t shy away. What’s My Name (Track 8) mixes swampy southern rock with the power and muscle of The Stooges full assault. I don’t think I have ever heard a more perfect blending of soulful vocals with pure sonic power similar to Ron Asheton. After a particularly scorching guitar solo, the gorgeous vocals take over and the finished product is perfection.
This album has maybe seven distinct musical genres blended together. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. You take the seven genres and then they turn into a rating of ten after Jon Langford gets through with them. This album deverves your undivided attention.