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Jon Langford & Skull Orchard

Old Devils – 2010 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Sara Hetland

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CDs by Jon Langford & Skull Orchard

With an album title like "Old Devils," one hopes for music that has a fun and folksy naughty streak. But while the combination of Jon Langford's punkish vocals and the country-tinged instrumentals (Skull Orchard is 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) is refreshing at times, the album manages to feel a bit anemic in the first half. The lyrics are distractingly meaningless and the guitar parts, while talented, could use a bit more grit. The album begins with the catchy song 1234 Ever, which has a robust, energetic feel in the intro and outro, but contains bland conventional rock in between. This is the case of the first part of the album in general - the CD makes attempts at genres from rockabilly to surf rock - but just when things are starting to get funky and fun, the band backs off.

The second half is much better, delving into more country sounds and lusher instrumentation. The highlights include the dreamy but grounded Haunted and the blossoming but spunky Death Valley Day. At its best, "Old Devils" defies genre, but sounds a bit like Wilco with a much coarser, raucous Jeff Tweedy. Jon Langford has always had a unique concept with his music, and it's frustrating to see slightly mundane execution at times.