Langford & Co. Rough It Up in Concert

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Compared with his vast and ramshackle recording history, Jon Langford's new "Gold Brick" is an album of Bic-waving ballads.

Performing as Jon Langford's Ship and Pilot at Iota on Monday night, though, he treated those new songs like everything else during an immensely enjoyable set, chewing them up and spitting them back out with a mouthful of salt and vigor.

Since the Mekons clattered into the world's ears in 1978, Langford has traversed styles of punk, country, indie rock and crooked soul in a dizzying array of group and solo projects. The 90-minute show drew from many of those sources (including the rugged Three Johns) but all sounded quintessentially Langford, with his rough-hewn guitar and voice "walking on hell's roof looking at the flowers," as one tune had it.

Longtime foil Sally Timms was along for the ride, her whiskey tones softening Langford's bluster and sweeping though versions of the Handsome Family's "Drunk by Noon" and Alejandro Escovedo's "Broken Bottle" with understated grace.

Ship and Pilot -- drummer Steve Goulding, bassist Tony Maimone and violinist Jean Cook -- played songs including "Tom Jones Levitation," "Tubby Brothers" and "Lost in America" with a charming country raggedness, but also built to a raucous coda on "Sentimental Marching Song."

Langford and Timms's between-tunes banter led to the usual hilarious and bawdy places (e.g., the sexual predilections of the hedge sparrow), but Monday's set was exceptional in that the music was as witty and edgy as the jokes.

-- Patrick Foster

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