In the late 1990s, Jon Langford, of the Mekons and Waco Brothers, decided to record his first solo album. The songs he found himself writing centered around his hometown, Newport, Wales, particularly what had happened to it when the nearby coal mines and steel mills began to disappear. The result was Skull Orchard, a wonderful CD that he later realized was missing just one thing … a Welsh male choir.
He’s since found the right choir for the job.
After meeting the Canadian-based Burlington Welsh Male Choir several years ago, Langford, who has lived here since 1992, asked the group to perform with him at CeltFelt in 2007, in Grant Park. The relationship endured. Meanwhile, “the eyes of an exile can’t help looking back,” to quote Langford, and he kept returning to thoughts of Newport and the themes of Skull Orchard.
This year, he released Skull Orchard Revisited. It’s both a book and a CD, and it’s a real Langford family affair: Jon contributed a short story, several of his paintings and, of course, the music, while his brother, David, wrote a funny, quirky “A South Wales Alphabet” and his late father, Denis, contributed photographs. And then, of course, there’s the Burlington Welsh Male Choir adding both weight and levity to the whole thing.
Here, Jon talks about the project and performs two songs from it — without the choir, sadly. But they’ll all be in town for the upcoming Hideout Block Party, Sat., Sept. 24.
Have a look: