Music » Livewire

The Weakerthans

With the High Strung, Despistado, and Solo Flyer. Sunday, November 14, at the Grog Shop.


One of music's most fascinating relationships is the slippery link between punk and twang -- the way so many tattooed tough guys secretly record whiskey-soaked westerns in their bedrooms, when no one else is around. Blame it somewhat on the influence of Johnny Cash, a stone-cold badass who could cause even the surliest mohawks to quake in their Doc Martens.

But a better reason for the intertwined appeal is the opposites-attract nature of each genre's brute lyrical honesty: Punk often intellectualizes abstract issues, while country allows for introspection that's purely emotional and personal. John K. Samson knows this dichotomy well, first as the ex-songwriter-bassist of politicopunks Propagandhi, and recently because of the group he founded in 1997, the Weakerthans. Roughly the Canadian equivalent of whimsical Saddle Creekers like Bright Eyes -- albeit only if Conor Oberst used the wry lyrical eye and churning bar-band licks popularized by the Replacements -- the band largely trades in politics of the heart. Their Shortlist-nominated 2003 album, Reconstruction Site, uses smoky pedal steel, the occasional touch of Beulahlike whimsy, and down-home vocal longing to paint evocative snapshots of lovely loneliness, hometown ruts, and the observations of a sagacious cat.

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