Rico, Sally and Jon @ Korks Otley May 4th 2012:
“Are you an entertainer?”!
THE BEST DEFENCE IS ATTACK
Not only is this parcel (it’s not a package it’s a series of related objects held within a common hardback cover) worth the effort for its reworking of an original idea, it opens up a whole new window on the things that contributed to the original Skull Orchard CD.
In recent years Jon Langford has found it easier to expound on his association with Newport and South Wales - his regular performances there as a solo artist, surrounded by friends bear this out. But here we have what is perhaps his most personal exposé of that relationship. Not only does he include family pictures taken by his father, Denis (mainly taken to fill up rolls ready to be taken for developing) but also a wonderful South Wales Alphabet written by Jon’s elder brother, Sci-Fi author and critic, David Langford, alongside newly created artwork related to the songs and South Wales.
Add this to a reworking of the original album which now includes extra tracks and the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus plus Jon’s first ever published story: “Inside The Whale” and you have an extensive piece of work.
Because there is more than one thing going on here you have to take them as individual works and at the same time as part of the whole. David’s reliably witty Alphabet puts many things in context whilst Jon’s music paves the way for the artworks in the book, as well as expounding on his roots in South Wales.
The addition of the choir extends the songs in a way which wasn’t possible when they were first seeing light in 1998. And then of course there is the artwork.
The book contains a detail of Jon’s painting linked directly to the songs and to South Wales, as ever in the unique form that Jon has doggedly developed over the past thirty years and which now mean that he is recognised for this unique, engaging style. He belongs to a group of contemporary artists who provide you with images and words but at the same time ask you what you see in their work.
IT WAS THE DOLPHIN WHO TOLD ME
The Story, “Inside The Whale” although a cautionary tale, dwells heavily on an isolation. The thought of trudging around the world’s oceans for nearly two hundred years weighs heavily for Flipper even though she believes in “thinking up new ways always, new directions” and “firing up the dry bone”. It also includes thinly disguised links to the music and to Jon’s admitted musical influences - A Whiter Shade of Whale indeed!
The Burlington Male Voice choir mirror Jon’s isolation from his homeland. Whatever it is that they do now in far off America, their link to the place of their birth is strong. As Jon describes them they are: “stout and grey…… mostly expats - romantic and economic exiles from grim post 60’s Britain” But they add to the story too and not only musically.
AN HEROIC BUT FLAWED LEADER
Jon clearly found kindred spirits (literally as far as the spirits seemed to go) with the BMC, his pal Ralph Mulcahy has a lot to answer for. What Jon started with his original album was an unwitting invitation for a Welsh male voice choir to join in and, a decade later, they do just that.
The reworking of Youghal and Trap Door put the songs in a new context worthy of Pequod’s crew. One only wonders what they could have produced if Jon’s desire to stage his musical, The Death Of Moby Dick had ever come to fruition. Frightening.
The choir sound like they were always there in the original recording, stoking up The Last Count with their rendition of “Aladdin” and its chorus, a chant any merchant seaman docking in Pill would have known, a chant Cyril Tawney would have been proud of:
Oh how happy us would be,
when we goes back to the West Country
Where the oggiz grow on trees,
cor bugger janner.
GREEN VALLEYS AND A LIFE ON THE DOLE
Brother David’s Alpahabet is for me the most fascinating collection of reminisence and demystification I’ve come across for some time. I now know what rhymes with Orange (not a lot to be truthful) as well as an insight into author Arthur Machen. Highlight of the Alphabet is “E for Experiments” something every schoolboy should consider when thinking of dropping O level chemistry.
The paintings although linking Jon directly to his new home in the USA bely the fact that, like many of us returning to our home ground, going back there is still exciting. The Transporter Bridge, the Docks, schoool, friends, family and just “being Newport” are imprinted on Jon’s psyche in a way that his sejour in Leeds can never compete with.
The list of collaborators on this album is as long as your arm. Mekons spotters will find Ms Timms reading the news, Rico, Lou and Steve floating about in the mix alongside South Wales stalwarts Julian Hayman, Carlton B Morgan, Mark Price, Dean Crindau and Guto Dafis on the newly added song “Solomon Jones”.
We know Jon is always been the first person to say let’s do this together, his collaborations are legendary but this book is a collaboration not only with his brother, nay his family but with his roots and as such it should be celebrated. Chicago may be where Jon’s home is but this book suggests Newport and South Wales is where his heart is.
Nashville Radio, Jon Langford’s first collection of paintings, writing, and music, summed up two decades’ work as an artist and musician. For its successor, Langford has created a highly personal portrait of the South Wales he grew up in and left. The starting point was his long unobtainable album Skull Orchard. For the CD available exclusively with this book, Langford returned to those lost recordings and radically revised them, adding three new tracks. His accomplices in the project were the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus, who contribute a unique warmth to the songs.
Langford illustrated his lyrics for Skull Orchard, at once autobiographical and fanciful, in a set of “song paintings” created especially for the book, which also includes many more paintings, an A to Z of South Walian culture and history (both personal and general) by brother (and acclaimed SF writer) David, photographs by their father, Denis Langford, and Jon’s first published story, a witty, dystopian tale about a whale and a dolphin.
1 TUBBY BROTHERS
3 LAST COUNT
4 BUTTER SONG
5 SENTIMENTAL MARCHING SONG
7 TRAP DOOR
8 INSIDE THE WHALE
9 I AM THE LAW
10 GREEN VALLEYS
11 PILL SAILOR
12 PENNY ARCADES
13 MY OWN WORST ENEMY
15 I’M STOPPING THIS TRAIN
16 DEEP SEA DIVER
17 TOM JONES LEVITATION
18 THE BALLAD OF SOLOMON JONES
19 MESSAGE FROM NEWPORT
(“Add To Cart” means buying it from Verse Corus Press)
Jon Langford • Cole Closser • J. Micah Nelson
Along with his upcoming tour comes a new cd by Jon. Here’s all the information Bloodshot gives:
1. 1234 Ever
2. Book Of Your Life
3. Getting Used To Uselessness
4. Self Portrait
6. Pieces Of The Past
8. Flag Of Triumph
9. Death Valley Day
10. Old Devils
11. River Of Ice
12. Strange Ways To Win Wars
“Leaves no doubt that Langford’s a master at the mix and match of punk ethos, indie sensibilities and roots thematics, a really engaging album that refuses to be categorised and stands as another original piece of art from the prolific Mr Langford.” No Depression
CD and Limited Edition LP release date: August 24th
That’s right an LP! First Langford vinyl since Thatcher was knocking around Number 10 Downing! Edition of 1000
LP contains download card with digital version of album, plus two songs not on the CD and extra artwork
“If the Billy Bragg-ish lead single “Getting Used To Uselessness” is any indication of what’s in store, it’s gonna be a helluva ride. The country and folk touchstones are well-represented, but Skull Orchard provides a certain lean muscularity to the proceedings that has been suppressed on many of Langford’s recent, more nuanced records.” - My Old Kentucky Blog
Full of soulful urgency and longing, of lost sailors, cruel pirates and creeping inevitabilities, the new solo album by Jon Langford travels o’er the seas and malls, from the pubs of Wales to the swamps of the settled life, steeped in the haunted, never-ending search for place. Old Devils sits on the tuff wharves of the world and swaps stories and worries, the lies told much better than the truths, conjuring the ghosts of mates-in-spiritual-arms from Dylan Thomas to Johnny Cash
Old Devils starts with the premise that punk rock is folk music. From there, Jon and his Skull Orchard incarnation (fellow Waco Brothers Alan Doughty and Joe Camarillo on bass and drums respectively and the Zincs/Horse’s Ha dapper, finger-picking Englishman Jim Elkington on guitar) bend, borrow and blend genres with energy, humor (grim and otherwise) and the Welsh gift of the tale. Ultimately, though, Skull Orchard rocks hard, “‘cos,” as Jon says, “that’s wot we do.”
“1234 Ever” and “Getting Used To Uselessness” go straight for the old school sweet spot–think a more muscular Hold Steady or Rockpile—the latter song masking the fed-up-with-the-quotidian-grind message with inviting opportunities to shout along and rousing handclap breakdowns. Elkington’s clean guitar lines, well-versed in the ways of the hippie folk reinventions of Richard Thompson and Bert Jansch, provide buoyant counterpoints to Jon’s chugging rhythm in “Flag of Triumph” and the woozy horns of “Haunted.” Even when the band goes all gentle country-inflected SoCal rock like “Book of Your Life” and the lush “Death Valley Day,” or charms with the pop-craft ooooohs and wicked rockabilly runs of “Self Portrait,” Skull Orchard are never far from punk’s energy or a honky tonk’s piano.
Old Devils takes us to ports of ill repute as far flung as the Old World and the West Indies (”Pieces of the Past” where “the filthy streets of Bristol were paved with blood and gold”), New Orleans and the American suburbs (”Luxury”) looking for the answers. Travel companions include soul godfather Andre Williams as the ominous rum drinking narrator, the Crescent City’s horn tribe Bonerama and the incomparable Jean Cook on violin.
Check out the snazzy new, frameable POSTER
08.24.10 IL Chicago Laurie’s Planet of Sound FREE IN STORE PERFORMANCE ON RELEASE DAY! 5:30 PM
08.30.10 IL Chicago Hungry Brain
09.18.10 IL Chicago Quencher’s
09.28.10 WA Seattle Tractor Tavern with the Silos’ Walter Salas-Humara (solo) FREE IN STORE PERFORMANCE at 6pm at Easy Street Records
09.29.10 OR Portland Mississippi Studios with the Silos’ Walter Salas-Humara (solo) FREE IN STORE PERFORMANCE at 6pm at Music Millennium
10.04.10 CA Davis House Concert Acoustic
10.07.10 TX Austin Continental Club Deano & the Meat Purveyors opening Art opening at Yard Dog Gallery 7-9 pm
10.08.10 TX Alpine Railroad Blues Deano & the Meat Purveyors opening
10.09.10 TX Marfa Padre’s Deano & the Meat Purveyors opening
10.14.10 MN Minneapolis Cedar Cultural Center
10.15.10 WI Madison The Frequency with Sally Timms
10.16.10 IL Chicago Martyr’s The Old Devils Ball Chicago Album release show with Andre Williams and the Goldstars, Sally Timms
John Sicolo opened TJs almost 40 years ago in Newport Wales. Numerous bands have played there since and under John’s guidance TJs has established as one of Wales’ best known rock venues. John Peel christianed the venue “the legendary TJs” on his radio shows.
THE SIX POINTS
1. A vote for every man over 21
2. Secret ballots
3. No property qualification
4. Payment of MPs
5. Constituencies of equal size
6. Annual Parliaments
The Chartists are oft remembered for their failed uprising in Newport on the 4th of November 1839. An uprising which left its leaders facing execution by the British State. Last weekend a walk across John Frost Square reminded me that radicalism is alive and well in South Wales - here was where local people had recently seen off an attempted rally by the racist English Defence League, the success marked by a celebration of the area’s multiculturalism in music and speech. After the failed uprising, Chartists across the UK and further afield rallied together firstly by supporting the uprising’s leaders in their hopeless legal fight and secondly by successfully petitioning parliament to ensure that the threat of execution of the likes of John Frost was removed. The Chartists were fighting for the “six points”, five of which we now take for granted.
Staring at the “to let” signs adorning the Victorian façade of the Westgate Hotel it almost seems unnecessary to wonder what the Chartists’ struggle was all about and if it was worth the death of 20 poor souls at the hands of Government forces. Would John the Roller of Nantyglo have considered his sacrifice worth it for the drab future of the Westgate Hotel as a “potential leisure venue”? There is definitely an air of post-Thatcherite ravage about the town but that doesn’t stop it from holding up its head in the wan sun of a February Saturday afternoon.
Wales are to play England in their opener of the Six nations Tournament later in the afternoon and Dean Holdsworth’s Newport County face Welling in the Blue Square South. There’s a definite air of expectancy around the bars in town and as the kick off for the rugby nears the streets empty. A mixture of English and Welsh fans take in the match in a strangely incongruous vodka bar and then finally the stage is set for tonight’s entertainment. A short walk away is Da Vinci’s Coffee Shop which tonight is home to a performance by Jon Langford and friends. Da Vinci’s is almost famous for having been one of the Newport locations for Dr Who but tonight its owners want to see what the effect of live music is alongside their rather marvellous pizza oven. We tested both and were well pleased.
The word was that it would be a capacity audience so just who would these 70 or so souls be? Newport’s finest it appeared. Anyone with even a passing fair knowledge of the Newport Leviathan would have a lovely time putting names to faces. From “Duke Bacardi” to the ubiquitous Ken Moore things were looking good. Olivia Perry kicked off proceedings and she was followed closely by The Flying Spider Revival. It was like being at a very good party, lots of great conversation from Newport County to AFC Sudbury, discovering that U2 are really a Welsh band (thanks Chrissie) and sitting in the seat where the Doctor repaired K9.
We eventually succumbed to Planet Langford mode whereby Jon gathers round him some trusty sidekicks and he enters into an extended discourse with all and sundry through the mediums of song, wisecrack and bemused observation. The songs did come relatively thick and fast given the opportunity for the other mediums. The band were the perfect foil to Jon’s sparse guitar technique, Guto’s accordion producing a strong basis to lay the two guitars and Ken’s percussion on. There were very few people in the room not singing, as you can see on this video.
Highlights? Well apart from a rather good story about the theft of a copy of Pile Driver which was then exchanged for a pair of jeans by two of Jon’s school pals that lead into the Quo classic “Caroline” (in a week when Quo received their MBEs too) one would be hard pressed not to choose a localised version of the now world famous drinking song “Pil Sailor”. (You had to take a drink every time somewhere in Newport was mentioned). As things roared to a climax, Carlton B Morgan crept onto the stage to add harmonica to the proceedings. Looking none the worse for his recently discovered addiction to Ovaltine, the line up was finally complete.
Jon’s acoustic soirées with his mates are few and far between on these shores so it’s good to take them in at any available opportunity. The quality of the music in Newport has always been noted but when you see it in the flesh it helps you understand a little bit more about the journey Jon has been on, one which still is grounded firmly in his roots. The fact that he can slot in the likes of Guto Dafis beside him shows that he attracts quality and the use of Julian Hayman as a key part of the overall instrumental and vocal sound turns the show around. Ken Moore provided far more than a range of percussion, and not just a straight man for Jon’s comic asides. He knows where his friend is coming from (and if he didn’t he could always have asked Jon’s mam who was in the audience, ready to back up her son’s more outrageous claims to fame).
I’d love to see a similar line-up again mainly because evenings of this calibre require more than just the constituent parts, they need a shimmering, showering of magic. Those present were not only witness to that magic but touched by it. As we wandered home we passed a local Estate agents who had a touch screen in the window display. You were encouraged to tell them how good their service had been. We did, rather a lot of times, probably screwing up their consumer research on the way. They would have been more pleased had they added a question along the lines of “did you enjoy Newport tonight?”
Fargo is a record label from Pairs France. They open a new store on 42, rue de la folie Méricourt Paris 11ème (métros Oberkampf or St Ambroise), open from Tuesday to Saturday , 11-1:00.
Feb 4th with an acoustic gig.
See this article from Liberation as well:
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