Friday, June 3, 2011

The great Jon Langford and another of his mad projects

Jon Langford and the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus
Skull Orchard Revisited
Jon Langford’s first solo album, Skull Orchard, was pegged on its release in 1998 as his most Welsh release ever. It was studded with odd consonants for one thing, places like Aberfan, Youghal and Rhondda. Moreover it was nostalgic, both lyrically and musically, for an admittedly imperfect lost Wales. Here tracts of industrial wreckage, port town decadence, minor historical events and figures were recollected fondly but roughly, in Langford’s gruff growls and extravagantly rolled Rs. Even in its original incarnation, backed by assorted Wacos and Mekons, listeners remarked on its folk-ish bent, hearing sea shanties and jigs in its rollicking ditties.

About a decade later, and via a circuitous route, Langford came into contact with the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus, a group based in Toronto but steeped in the group-singing traditions of Langford’s childhood. He was in Toronto recording The Sadies’ live album when he met up with the chorus’ leader, Julian Murray, and soon was deep in beery plots for a touring musical of Moby Dick. Sadly, that never materialized, but Langford did invite the chorus to accompany him at a CeltFest in Chicago in 2007. The songs of Skull Orchard, he decided, were a natural fit. He wrote later, in the book that accompanies this reissue, that “The tunes on the original Skull Orchard album were unknowingly written with a Welsh male choir in mind….They were meant to be sung at international rugby matches in an alternative universe where Tom Jones is the president of a free Welsh republic and Garndiffaith win the Heineken Cup.”


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