Jon Langford and Jean Cook

Jon Langford and Jean Cook

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Like any self-respecting Welshman with a fine arts degree in the late 1970s, Jon Langford co-founded a punk folk country rock band. His was called The Mekons. It became legendary for daring to go where no other bands had gone before. Jon has also been part of numerous other ensembles including the Waco Brothers.

Based, since the early 90s, in Chicago, Jon has also gained recognition for his portraits of country music greats. He illustrates beer bottle labels for Dogfish Head Breweries, so his art school degree is far from being wasted. He has been involved in various other projects incorporating spoken word, visual arts and music. He is a multifaceted artist with a deep respect for the American neo-folk tradition – that means he likes the music of Hank Williams and the message of more socially committed artists. He has curated three volumes of songs against the death penalty. He is also involved with the Bloodshot record label. who have put out his latest collection, Here Be Monsters. One might remember that this was the sign where the world ended, according to geographers in the 1500’s.

Bloodshot describes Jon’s latest collection: “Plots a clear-eyed, sharp-elbowed course through such far-flung subjects as alternative hierarchies and astronomy, perpetual war for perpetual profit, the culture of detachment, middle age, fatherhood, fame, and the fleetingness of love.” Now you know. Listen to one of the new songs, Drone Operator. It is as current as the news and tracks the transition from slacker game enthusiast to killer in the first person, ‘like God with a thunderbolt’ set to a sixties folk rock track. A survey rather than anything thematic, Jon’s new songs cover a lot of ground. Jon will come with a friend, Jean Cook.

Jean is the treasurer of Antisocial Music. She is very involved with the cutting edge of classical music. She has been part of a variety of projects with names like The Hip Hop Philharmonic and lots more adventures that take the music forward. She is a political activist and, more germane to her arrival here, a brilliant violinist. She has worked in bigger bands with Jon and as a duo.

Together Jon and Jean bring some of the best of the American contemporary musical avant-garde to town.

By Gary Cristall, VFMF 2014 Program Guide