Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#683 in the Series) is The Waco Brothers and Paul Burch, Great Chicago Fire
If Great Chicago Fire, the most recent Bloodshot Records release by the fantastic Alternative Country act The Waco Brothers is any indication the band known for their incendiary live performances and legendary fan friendly, road-dog touring mentality have proven that they can serve both creative muses with this fine collection of collection of Americana influenced songs which may be their finest work to date.
Band leader Jon Langford was one of the founding members of The Mekons that was one of the first bands to meld Punk, Country, Rock, and Folk influences creating a musical gumbo that would soon grow up to be called Alternative Country. Along with his day job as dynamic front man Langford is also a brilliant and prolific artist. His profiles of musical icons Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Elvis Presley are much in demand in print form and his portrait of Gram Parsons captures the artist in all his angelic glory.
This time Langford and his mates are joined by singer songwriter Paul Burch who most recently released an album of Buddy Holly covers in 2011 titled Words of Love: Songs of Buddy Holly, along with East to West in 2006 with contributions from Mark Knopfler and Ralph Stanley. The presence of Burch on this effort has given the album a little less incendiary feel with a sound that Langford calls deviant transgressive country-rock.
From the up-tempo opening number “Great Chicago Fire” the album introduces itself as more of a rock record than an alternative-country album with some fine dueling vocals soaring over a velvet smooth set of backing female vocals which are complemented by a Rolling Stones worthy back beat.
Known more as a live more spontaneous band there was some fear at the beginning of the project that the structured confines of a proper studio would somehow dull the razors edge that is such a part of the Waco Brothers sound. The dichotomy was quickly resolved by recording the songs with limited re-takes and to maintain the live feel by limiting the post production editing and to avoid laboring over the song writing duties with Burch in full collaboration mode with the rest of the band. The result is that all 11 all songs on the album including the Bob Dylan cover “Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” sound fresh with the cohesive feel of a song swapping circle where each musical nugget having its own musical soul.
My personal favorite song on the album is “Monterey” a song clearly influenced by The Texas Tornados and Doug Sahm. If Keith Richards fronted the Texas Tornados this is EXACTLY what they would have sounded like.
“Someone That You Know” is a Rodney Crowell sound-a- like delicate jaunty number that should translate very well live even though formative plans have yet to be developed to tour behind the album. “Transfusion Blues” has a 70’s garage rock feel and sounds sonically and vocally a little messy which in this case is a very good thing. I can’t help but think here that a few select Hammond Organ scales could turn an already excellent song into a stunning tour-de-force.
This album is very much worth your attention. Often times when an artist with the pedigree of Paul Burch joins a band to collaborate on an album the results can be less than stellar. The vote is in, this album is stellar and despite the bands current Chicago roots should be front and center in the library of any Texas Music fan.
- Great Chicago Fire
- Give In
- Wrong Side of Love
- Flight to Spain
- Someone That You Know
- Transfusion Blues
- On The Sly
- Up On The Mountain
- Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall
- Steve Goulding – Drums
- Jon Langford - Guitar, Vocals
- Alan Doughty – Bass
- Dean Schlabowske – Guitar, Organ, Vocals
- Tracy Dear – Electronic Mandolin, Vocals
- Paul Burch – Drums, Guitar, Piano, Vocals
- Pat Brennan – Accordion, Piano
- Joe Camarillo – Drums
- Fats Kaplin – Fiddle
- Tawny Newsome – Vocals
- Bethany Thomas - Vocals
- Official Waco Brothers Website
- Official Paul Burch Website
- Official Bloodshot Records Website
- Walt Falconer’s The Falcon’s Nest Website
- Back to the Cool Album Home Page
Steam the album below…