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.