Personnel: Dean Schlabowske, Jon Langford (vocals, guitar); Tracy Dear (vocals, mandolin); Joe Camarillo (vocals, drums); Alan Doughty, Mike Hagler (vocals); Jean Cook (violin); Barkley McKay (piano, organ).
Audio Mixer: Mike Hagler.
Recording information: Kingsize Soundlabs, Chicago II.
Photographer: David Brown .
"This is the first track from the last album." With these words, the Waco Brothers kick off their tenth studio album, 2016's Going Down in History. It hardly sounds like the work of a band throwing in the towel. However, it does sound leaner and harder than their best-known work, as if hard times are wearing away at their honky tonk veneer. Steel guitarist Mark Durante has left the band, and Jon Langford and Dean Schlabowske responded by beefing up their six-string work. With Tracy Dear's mandolin low in the mix, this makes for an album that eases back on the Wacos' country influences and lets their rock & roll side take the wheel. The tougher sound, reinforced by Barkley McKay's keyboards, has brought the group's leftist politics and allegiance to punk rock to center stage. The tightly focused anger of "Had Enough," "Building Our Own Prison," and "DIYBYOB" serves the songs and lets the bandmembers show just how hard they can hit. Rabble-rousing has always been a part of what the Waco Brothers do. But there's a edge of resignation in Going Down in History that suggests the chaos of America in 2016 is more than they ever bargained for. They may have griped about Bill Clinton on their debut album, but the prospect of Donald Trump in the White House is a nightmare even they can't approach with bitter laughter. Clocking in at less than half an hour, Going Down in History is short and bittersweet. It's the sound of a great band evolving with the times, even as those times try their soul and conscience. ~ Mark Deming