Jon Langford – Skull Orchard Revisited

Rock is full of performers with fine-art and multimedia pretensions, but few possess the original vision, or the work ethic, to build a substantial body of extra-musical output. One guy who’s got the vision thing and the work-ethic thing nailed down is Mekons/Waco Brothers stalwart Jon Langford, whose prolific efforts as a visual artist and writer are every bit as impressive and expressive as his musical resume.

Like his songs, Langford’s paintings and prose throb with ideas and radiate with humanity and absurdity, reconfiguring historical and pop-culture imagery to serve his barbed, bittersweet view of civilization. The typically audacious Skull Orchard Revisited combines a hardbound book of paintings, photos and text with a CD containing a radically reworked remix of Langford’s out-of-print 1998 solo album Skull Orchard.

Langford’s 2006 book/CD Nashville Radio was a sprawling exploration of Langford’s relationship with his adopted American homeland and its music. The more intimate (and equally emotionally complex) Skull Orchard Revisited looks at the artist’s Welsh background, incorporating a variety of touching, often hilarious paintings, some illuminating written commentary and a memorable short story, with additional background text by Langford’s sci-fi writer brother David and evocative photographs shot by his father Denis.

The book’s 19-track companion CD covers related ground, with such vivid tunes as “Tubby Brothers,” “Inside the Whale,” “Deep Sea Diver” and “Tom Jones Levitation” echoing its thematic concerns.  This retooled, expanded edition broadens the original rockist Skull Orchard album, with the presence of the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus lending added gravitas to the already potent, personally charged songwriting. Like the book, the album (in either version) is a moving testament to the power of roots and the pull of history.

Jon Langford
Skull Orchard Revisited
[Verse Chorus Press]