Jon Langford & Skull Orchard 

Old Devils

Guitarist, singer, songwriter, and visual artist Jon Langford is one of those humans who retains a seemingly boundless supply of creativity bubbling within. Langford's current combo affiliations include The Mekons, Waco Brothers, and Pine Valley Cosmonauts. His latest conduit is Skull Orchard (title of his first proper solo disc of original material, from 1998) and the album Old Devils is likely Langford's most bountiful, varied collection of songs yet.

Yes, there are the bitterly cynical, wiry, overcast rockers ("1234 Ever," "Self Portrait") for which Langford is known and loved. But the gorgeous "Luxury" is a somewhat atypical ballad with its bittersweet Gordon Lightfoot-like melody and lush background chorus. The ruminative, twang-laden "Haunted" has a nifty wistful horn arrangement that evokes those melancholy Sixties Burt Bacharach pop productions (e.g., Dionne Warwick, B.J. Thomas).

Unlike some solo albums by performers best-known as members of a particular band, Langford's albums away from The Mekons aren't vessels for rejects or warmed-over surplus but damn fine works in their own respective rights. (Bloodshot)

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