Waco Brothers

To the Last Dead Cowboy

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Give Jon Langford four hours with nothing to do and chances are good he'll create another side project, and at first the Waco Brothers sounded like yet another way for Langford and his drinking buddies to pass the time while the Mekons got it together to make another album. (Langford himself has said the Waco Brothers were originally put together to play gigs for beer at their favorite Chicago watering holes.) But To the Last Dead Cowboy also made it clear Langford was in inspired form writing in a more explicitly country style than he'd managed during the Mekons' twangy period; if "Sometime I Wonder" and "Bad Times (Are Comin' Round Again)" don't exactly sound like the stuff of current Nashville hits, that's exactly the point, and they cut deeper to the heart of C&W's dark and reckless soul than anything Garth Brooks or Shania Twain could ever dream of (and "Plenty Tuff, Union Made" is one of the few really great labor anthems of the 1990s). Also, Langford had collaborators who could pull their weight in the songwriting department -- Dean Schlabowske contributes several winners, including "Harm's Way" and "If You Don't Change Your Mind," and Tracy Dear turned in "Too Sweet To Die" and "K.T. Tennessee." To the Last Dead Cowboy has a looser, more casual sound than later Waco Brothers releases, and at this point they sounded a bit more like goof than a real band. But they were already a truly inspired goof, and it set the stage for the great work they would record soon afterward.

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