Men of Gwent – ‘President of Wales’ (Country mile records)
Picking up this CD only release sent a flood of memories streaming from the subconscious, I mean vocalist John Langford has to be one of the most prolific artists on the planet, (I’m happy to debate this). I mean looking back into the day all the way back to Leeds and the forming of the 3 Johns and their ongoing love affair with John Peel, they recorded six sessions!!!!! Go back even further and we’re into the formation of the Mekons and major label status, the thing both bands have in common? The quality of the output!!
Now before any Langford purists start screaming at me for missing a huge body of work I want to move forward to current times and highlight a couple of Newish collaboration’s firstly Four lost souls, this to me is pure Americana, an absolutely jaw dropping Journey across the states, well worth a listen and secondly Bad Luck Jonathan, whose first release included members of the Waco brothers, Jesus Jones, the Mekons and Whiskeytown, now this comes from the complete opposite end of the Spectrum, raw, noisy, psychedelic and as Punk as!!!!.
Finally, I want to bring in Men of Gwent with this their second release, and a damn fine LP it is too, dropping in story’s of a known/unknown Welsh history. Opener Grave Alexandra has a great Alt-Country vibe, setting the story on its way. Next up Bulmore Lido drops things back a notch Langford’s vocals telling the story as only he can evoking memories and painting a picture, of a long gone Welsh memory. Blue to Black again shifts, theirs almost a reggae skank to it, but with a gorgeous twin vocal lead support supplied by Lily Gray, as you move through the song you drift into its country underpinning seriously clever stuff.
X-Ray style is an unexpected pleasure a great re-working of the Strummer original, delivered with the right amount of sneer, at this point you begin to realize how clear the production is, then when you check out the final mastering and find Blaise Barton a long time Langford collaborator, you realize that what’s been picking at you is the fact this could have been a Mekons release, the sound and songwriting is so powerful and in tune.
We move through Frankie Lodge, Hey! Rebecca and Home of the vote with no let up in Quality, the latter tipping a nod towards a bygone era of the stranglers. Bassaleg Road Earthquake, slows it down, Mark’s base leading the vocal down a very different path, reaching out to a Welsh Identity, this is probably my fave track on the LP. Before we know it my journey through a place and History I know well, is almost over and done, the LP finishes up with President of Wales and London to Llanelli line.
All in all a great LP from one of Wales most prolific sons, well worth the time and attention.
Author: Nev Brooks