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No joke, The Wacos return

Atwood's Tavern, Cambridge, Mass., April 19, 2016

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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The Clash may have ended their run decades ago, but one couldn't blame Joe Strummer - if able to listen from the grave - that his band is alive and well. Only now he'd have to think they were reincarnated as The Waco Brothers.

And Strummer needn't worry about whether the long running Chicago band is up to snuff either.

Led by Jon Langford, a bit of a provocateur, at least with his comments, The Waco Brothers raced through their set with spit and fire and put both to good use.

This is a veteran band, of course. The Wacos have been plying their brand of punked up country for more than 20 years with their just released "Going Down in History" their first full-fledged effort since "Freedom and Weep" in 2005.

Not only is the album most worthy (except that it only clocks in at 29 minutes for 10 songs, but those 29 minutes are well spent), but they certainly had no problems turning it up a few notches live despite playing in a tiny 85-person club with a cramped stage to boot.

The fact was that the proximity of crowd to band helped ratchet up the pace even more. The songs were fast, furious and melodic. Consider it to as a take no prisoners type of music.

It also helps to have a complete band that fires on all fours pretty much at will. Langford shared lead vocal duties with Dean Schlabowske, who doubled on guitar, and Tracey Dear, who also played mandolin (although it could have been higher in the mix at times). Sometimes the backing mates would kick in hard on vocals.

And for something different, Josh Cantor played accordion.

While they have a lot of their own worthy material ("Plenty Tough, Union Made" was a particular highlight), they also turned in a bunch of top shelf covers, including a sharp version of The Undertones' "Teenage Kicks," Johnny Cash's "Big River," The Small Faces' "All or Nothing" and "I Fought the Law," with The Clash's version being the obvious reference point. Langford, who has a sharp sense of humor, also played a bit of a Tom Jones song, after making jokes about his fellow Welshman (it should be noted that he apparently does consider Jones an influence, jokes aside).

One thing that was no joke was The Waco Brothers made a most welcome return.