Seventy five years of shared experience make for a strident rootsy collaboration.
Clearly, any ‘new’ band naming themselves Freakons must be good. Esteemed, award winning Americana UK chief Mr Whitfield even thinks as much. When said band is a mash up of Jon Langford’s mighty Mekons (formed way back in 1976, in this writer’s hometown Leeds) and legendary Kentuckians Freakwater, then buckle up listeners! This is a raw, sprawling, folksy, transatlantic country juggernaut. Stories of mining disasters, ecological catastrophes and bad times all round. Twelve cuts: traditional tunes and selected originals that sound just like they too were crafted over the centuries. Proper stirring subject matter all round. Janet Bean and Catherine (Freaks) are the singers per se, Langford and Timms (Mekons) are more of the hollering and protesting persuasion. It works as a whole, with expert help from talented harmony singing and guitar playing friends. Alternate tracks jump back and forth across the big pond like a belching steam ship.
Standout tracks? ‘Phoebe Snow’ is Appalachian country noir, dragged up from the Kentucky and West Virginia coal seams. A pained, screaming fuzz guitar solo charges through the campfire folk. ‘Mannington Mine Disaster’ is self-explanatory. A rousing defence of men lost underground due to the boss man’s negligence (unsurprisingly). For the Americana ears, the Freakwater-led tracks will appeal more. For the folkies, The Mekons have you covered with rabble rousing Welsh mining songs like ‘Abernant 84/85’. The two seams blend together best on opening track ‘Dark Lords Of The Mine’.
You could argue that there’s perhaps not enough ‘blend’ between Freaks and Mekes. You could argue that the one degree of separation is just right. Perhaps just listen and decide for yourself.
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