Waco Express- Live and Kickin’
When alt.country was little more than a glimmer on a list master’s server, there were the Waco Brothers, a group of Chicago-based malcontents who played for a common love of beer and country music. More than a dozen years later, Jon Langford and his mates are still pounding out a blend of country and rock- not country rock- with no apparent concern for what is fashionable in the music business.
I’m not going to pretend to have seen the band one hundred and sixty-two times, and to have memorized every chord of every album. I have been a casual Waco Brothers follower, at best. I’ve heard a couple albums (the early ones) and I’ve enjoyed their tracks on the various Bloodshot compilations.
I know was also put off a bit with all the positive press I read about the band- for awhile there, one couldn’t read an issue of No Depression without someone having salivated all over the latest album, live show, or collaboration from the Waco Brothers and their ilk.
I think I’ve never gravitated toward the band simply because I always had the (mistaken, admitedly) impression Langford and Co. were taking the piss with their version of roots and country music. Plus, I had purchased a couple Mekons albums and was left cold. Jon Langford’s Gold Brick didn’t do much for me either.
Therefore, Waco Express- Live and Kickin’ at Schuba’s Tavern, Chicago sat in a pile in my office for months after being received. And then last week, while preparing a column on Albums I Overlooked in 2008 I was moved to slip it into the machine. And my life changed…
Not really. But I remembered why I liked the compilation cuts, and realized how unfair I had been to JL and the band by not giving them their full due. Sometimes, everyone else isn’t wrong.
This live set contains a selection of the band’s underground anthems, with The Death of Country Music and Plenty Tough Union Made ringing as true today as they did when first heard in the late ’Nineties. Fair criticism may be leveled that two-thirds of the material is from the band’s first two albums, and that more recent discs are given short shrift. But, it’s hard to knock what works, and Waco Express is a fine little concert platter.
One is reminded of the Silos and Jason and the Scorchers, and this could serve as a reminder to Ryan Adams that loose doesn’t necessarily mean sloppy. The live energy captured on this fifty-minute plus show is sweaty, loud, and aggressive, and Langford has seldom sounded in stronger voice.
If you’ve never listened to the Waco Brothers, this is as good a place to start as any. I do know I am looking at downloading a couple albums this weekend. I think I’ve got some exploring to do.