Chivalrous Amoekons – Fanatic Voyage
Angel Olsen cut her teeth in Will Oldham’s band, and she was in tow for Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s 2012 Wolfroy Goes to Town tour. On the European leg, the sextet unleashed a full set of songs by the Mekons, the simpatico and long-running Leeds-by-way-of-Chicago alt-country anarchists. It’s a mutual admiration society – Mekon Jon Langford championed a young Oldham back in his Palace Brothers days. This set of covers (you’d never know it was captured live) is now being formally released as Fanatic Voyage, with proceeds going to a New Orleans music charity.
Olsen plays the Sally Timms role to a T – she takes only one lead (on the arch “Love Letter”) but prominently shares vocals with Oldham on most of the others. For his part Oldham seems less intent on imitation, perhaps because he gets to split the difference between original male vocalists Langford and Tom Greenhalgh. I could be easily convinced that’s Greenhalgh himself singing on “Last Dance,” though. (It’s actually the Cairo Gang’s Emmett Kelly.)
The performances are smoother than the somewhat slapdash approach associated with the Mekons, particularly during their late 1980s period from which most of this material is drawn. The renditions are faithful, although the keyboard can be an annoyance when subbing for violin and accordion on early favorites like “Big Zombie.” Most Mekons admirers are fanatics like Oldham, and they won’t be disappointed by this collection.