Waco Brothers prove more punk than country
TT the Bears, Cambridge, Mass., Feb. 8, 1997
CAMBRIDGE, MA - The final song of the Waco Brothers new disc, "Cowboy in Flames," is appropriately enough entitled "Death of Country Music."
The Chicago-based band, comprised of band members who gained fame, but not necessarily fortune with other bands, sings in the opening song that the death "rattles around the planet...where the dance floor's overcrowded and the music's getting louder/People do some breathing/while they're cheating death."
Clearly an indictment of the current state of country where the dance floor craze neglected the pillars of country like Jones and Cash, who are cited in the song as well. No wonder the Wacos were all dressed in black.
Whether The Wacos are the successors to the mantle of Jones and Cash may be debatable, but they did prove before 200 plus they may be more the successors to the mantle of another Jones - Mick - and his former seminal punk band, The Clash.
The band's one-hour set proved to be far more punk than country, although the Wacos did show their country leanings towards the end ("Do What I Say" and several covers). The band clearly rocked far harder than they do on either of their two albums.
Not to say that is bad. Far from it because this is a band that seems entirely comfortable in either sector.
Jon Langford of British band, The Mekons, is one of the lead singers along with Dean Schlabowske, who recalls Elvis Costello visually and Jason Ringenberg of Jason & The Scorchers vocally ("Waco Express"). Each acquitted himself well on vocals throughout the evening with Langford's the rougher hewn. Mandolinist Tracy Dear also turned in a good performance on vocals. Sometimes, however, the vocals were mixed too low.
A few worthy covers - "White Lightning," also on the new disc, and "I've Got a Tiger By the Tail," penned by Buck Owens and Harlan Howard - were well done.
Like The Clash, the Wacos don't shy away from politics, something country generally has stayed away from. And while many in country possess conservative values, the Wacos stand squarely on the left. "Plenty Tuff Union Made" is an ode to the power of unions and working folks.
Drummer Stephen Goulding, former member of Graham Parker's The Rumour, bassist Alan Sprocket, formerly of the British band Jesus Jones ("Right Here, Right Now"), Mark Durante, of KMFDM on pedal steel player all possessed the musical skill to pull off the punk/country combo.
Sprocket acknowledged after the gig he wasn't much into country prior to being part of the Wacos, but he said he has grown to like it.
Following the show, Dear asked if it was country. "Well, no it was more punk," he was told.
Punk may not really be the future of country music, but if the Wacos adhere more to country, they could be one of the bands spearheading the growth of country as we once knew it, but with a decidedly modern twist.