Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Richard Buckner & Jon Langford [extended]

  • Misery Loves Company [Scout, 1995] **
  • Bloomed [DejaDisc, 1995] Neither
  • Devotion and Doubt [MCA, 1997] B-
  • Skull Orchard [Sugar Free, 1998] A-
  • Gravestone EP [Bloodshot, 1998] ***
  • Mayors of the Moon [Bloodshot, 2003] A-
  • The Executioner's Last Songs Volumes 2 & 3 [Bloodshot, 2003]
  • All the Fame of Lofty Deeds [Bloodshot, 2004] A
  • Sir Dark Invader vs. the Fanglord [Buried Treasure, 2005] *
  • Gold Brick [ROIR, 2006] *
  • KatJonBand [Carrot Top, 2008] Choice Cuts
  • Old Devils [Bloodshot, 2010] B+
  • Here Be Monsters [In De Goot, 2014] A-
  • Jon Langford's Four Lost Souls [Bloodshot, 2017] ***

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Jonboy Langford and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts: Misery Loves Company [Scout, 1995]
"explore the dark and lonely world of Johnny Cash" with more cojones than Rick Rubin ("Cocaine Blues," "What Is Truth?") **

Richard Buckner: Bloomed [DejaDisc, 1995] Neither

Richard Buckner: Devotion and Doubt [MCA, 1997]
"So after all those months we're splitting up, and it had to happen, but I'm feeling like shit. We pack the U-Haul, and of course everything in the kitchen is hers except these big jars of oregano and garlic powder I bought in a dollar store to spice up my pizza. It's so late she stays over, and I watch her sleep, you know? God. But she wakes up pretty early and we kiss goodbye and she gets in the car and then what do you think happens? The U-Haul breaks free and there's dishes all over the road. It seemed awful at the time, the mess and the delay had me stressing, but I gotta laugh about it now. And you know the funniest part? Without her noticing I kept some of those dishes--you're eating your pizza off one right now. More oregano?'' Well, that's how I'd replot the best song here--in Buckner's version it's ditches all over the road, and he still thinks the whole thing was awful. And of course, he has just the sensitive baritone to make awful seem awful romantic to sad sacks and the women who love them. B-

Jon Langford: Skull Orchard [Sugar Free, 1998]
The difference is palpable. The Mekons, Waco Brothers, Killer Shrews, and I forget who are/were groups that couldn't do without Langford, whereas this is Langford deploying backup musicians, aides-d'arte who happen to be Wacos as well. There's no band feel, no sense of music-in-process--the garrulous artiste is audibly up top, organizing structural support for a sheaf of good tunes, and while the best of these is courteously passed on to Gertrude Stein, who wrote the words to "Butter Song," all the rest belong to Jonboy. Anyone who's tried to keep up with his one-liners knows he's an articulate bastard, but he's better off when he doesn't have to get to the end in 75 words or less, which is why his country band has always thrived on covers. Here he runs on, confessing his antisocial tendencies like the singer-songwriter he temporarily is--without forgetting that capitalism is antisocial too. A-

Jon Langford: Gravestone EP [Bloodshot, 1998]
Two enduring rerecorded highlights, one fine recycled obscurity, one excellent new song, mail-order only ("Nashville Radio," "The Return of the Golden Guitarist"). ***

Jon Langford and His Sadies: Mayors of the Moon [Bloodshot, 2003]
Right, he's got all those other albums--Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Mekons of course, Waco Brothers. But there he was just the compere, or had to share the writing with his mates. This isn't enough when you have a calling to pursue, a family to support, a world to curse and mourn--when nothing can shut you up. Lyrics that despair of politics, find true pain in true love, unhinge from terra firma, and gripe about the road are delivered with country plainness, glimmers of spirituality, plenty of rolled r's, and the sense that by singing reality you can make it mean something, at least while you're at it. Not "Before they stop me"; more like "As long as I still can." A-

Jonboy Langford and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts: The Executioner's Last Songs Volumes 2 & 3 [Bloodshot, 2003]
More songs about transgression and death--two CDs' worth, actually (Jon Langford With Sally Timms, "Delilah"; Skid Marks With Sally Timms, "Homicide"; Otis Clay, "Banks of the Ohio") [unknown]

Jon Langford: All the Fame of Lofty Deeds [Bloodshot, 2004]
Purportedly a concept album in which Mr. Deeds goes to Nashville because he's outgrown his band, and life will never be the same because fame can do that (also death). Actually a bunch of songs in which Mr. Langford goes to Chicago because he can't stand Margaret Thatcher, and life will never be the same because George W. Bush can do that (also Satan). The "hard road that always brings you back" has brought him back to where he once escaped, so now he's considering Switzerland, yodel-ay-ee-oooo. True love aside, how the hell did he wind up in America? "The country is young . . . not too good on the sharing," so let the zombies tear it apart. Only he loves its music, which sustains him even in the absence of one of the ad hoc bands he'll never outgrow--the arrangements, early Cash with extras, are as committed as the singing we've learned to assume. The glory of America at war with its shame, and don't bet it'll hold up its head forever. A

Sir Dark Invader vs. the Fanglord [Buried Treasure, 2005]
Langford kids Buckner into taking it easy, which for Buckner is a species of grace, and takes it easy himself to be a good sport, which for him is a kind of slackness ("The Inca Princess," "Nothing to Show") *

Jon Langford: Gold Brick [ROIR, 2006]
Music for some occasions ("Workingman's Palace," "Lost in America"). *

KatJonBand [Jon Langford & Kat Ex]: KatJonBand [Carrot Top, 2008]
"Bad Apples," "Crackheads Beware" Choice Cuts

Jon Langford & Skull Orchard: Old Devils [Bloodshot, 2010]
"Live for next week/Live for last year," the 52-year-old advises devilishly and also oldly in the lefthand panel of a triptych about aging that's completed by the unfinished "Book of Your Life" and the killing "Getting Used to Uselessness." After that, fittingly but dishearteningly (although under the circumstances that's fitting too), the songcraft wends its way gradually downhill; not even the title track provides much of a rise. Only then comes a finale called "Strange Ways to Win Wars" and Langford is on top of things again--not young because he's not that kind of liar, just strong and clear-eyed as he quietly and suggestively surveys our disheartening politics: "And no one is spared, no one is spared/No one is spared, no one is spared." B+

Jon Langford & Skull Orchard: Here Be Monsters [In De Goot, 2014]
Once it hits home, the opening "Summer Stars" could be the gravest song of his life, a threnody for an earth ruined by the ecological/economic catastrophe most of us foresee in our grimmer moments--a vision no less vivid or plausible for its reliance on metaphor. The metaphors that follow are easier to duck and in the case of the amelodic "Mars" ignore. But starting midway in with "Drone Operator," the lyrics become more pointed, one political indictment after another, with Langford's precisely articulated, barely contained rage his version of what they call soul. Sing it, brother. A-

Jon Langford's Four Lost Souls: Jon Langford's Four Lost Souls [Bloodshot, 2017]
Cut on the fly November 9, 2016, by master songwriter Langford, three Chicago pals, and some Muscle Shoals regulars, none of whom I bet had their heads together yet ("In Oxford Mississippi," "Fish Out of Water," "Mystery") ***