You can measure an artist by the number of side projects he has going on, and Jon Langford of The Mekons, Waco Brothers, Pine Valley Cosmonauts, and The Three Johns is one prolific dude. The number of pies Langford has his fingers in illustrates his creative drive, and also speaks to his remarkably easy-going and collaborative nature. It’s this temperament that has made Welsh-born Langford the den father of the Chicago country-punk scene since the mid 90s.
“Country-punk scene – is that a thing?” you may ask. Well maybe not in most towns, but in Chicago, home of Bloodshot Records, country and punk blend together like a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and Langford is (with apologies to Subway™) one of the chief sandwich artists. He cultivates his musical community by championing local musicians at every turn, lending his considerable talents to collaborative projects, backing and being backed by a cadre of musicians such as Sally Timms, Alejandreo Escovedo, Richard Buckner and Rosie Flores.
He’s also a well-respected visual artist, represented by the “outsider art” gallery Yard Dog in Austin, TX. His portraits of musical heroes, such as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Gram Parsons, distressed and aged on stout wooden boards, evoke medieval iconography, elevating the musicians to the realm of the otherworldly. The festival was fortunate to have Langford design our festival image in both ’09 and ’10, so you may already own a Langford piece, at least in the form of a souvenir t-shirt.
His newest musical project, Jon Langford and Skull Orchard featuring frequent colleague Sally Timms, hearkens back to Langford’s ‘lost’ album Skull Orchard, a love letter to the ugly little Welsh town of Newport, and has a companion book featuring ‘song paintings’, personal histories and a story about a whale and a dolphin. From an artist like Jon, we expect nothing less.