Since avant-leftist Jon Langford had already been toiling for some 15 years with England's seminal punk-to-country collective the Mekons when he resettled in Chicago and formed the Waco Brothers, the sextet at first seemed like a momentary indulgence in the twangy roots rock that the Mekons had moved beyond. But this seventh album celebrates the Waco Brothers' 10th anniversary by proving the transformative power of Langford's sense of musical community.
So the sidemen in this not-so-side project now take over some of the creative responsibility, as Langford spreads his attention among numerous ventures, including paintings, solo albums, the ever-evolving Mekons, and a young family. Though he comes up with a couple of killer tunes, the bluntest Bush bashes are written by Deano Schlabowske, who once preferred personal portraits. The band's other displaced Brit, Tracy Dear, who used to specialize in change-of-pace ballads, pens Freedom's two damn-the-contradictions anthems. One is about a workingwoman's rock-and-roll "Fantasy"; the other, about coming a long way to raise a glass with an old mate. Hear, hear. -- Franklin Soults The Waco Brothers, with Rambler 454. Wednesday, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.