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Jon Langford

For more than 20 years, Welsh-born Jon Langford has been kickin' out the rock with his legendary cowboy-punk band Mekons, which originated from the same Leeds, England music scene that produced the equally legendary though long defunct Gang of Four. In addition, he's undertaken a number of side projects, including a boisterous agit-prop rock band, Three Johns, and a pair of country bands, The Waco Brothers and Pine Valley Cosmonauts. And as if that weren't enough, there's his Skull Orchard band (essentially a revised version of the Waco Brothers lineup), which backs him on his first ever bona fide solo release, also titled Skull Orchard.

This record features the same kind of no-holds-barred country- and punk-inflected rock that we've heard from Langford on past efforts. It's full of biting guitars and fiddles and even the occasional ukulele, and it's all infused with a whiskey-fueled power that might make you think of The Pogues back in the good old days. Lyrically, however, Langford turns away to some extent from his own debauchery to focus on the urban terror of America and the U.K. with the same lefty fervor that was so central to the best of British punk rock. As hard as the record rocks, it's also a mature, reflective work that makes you see the pain behind the anger.

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