Musician known for work with Mekons leads show that will raise funds for green space commemorating ’32 Ford Hunger March
Standing on a barren patch of grass in the shadow of the Marathon refinery, Paul Draus is a man with a vision.
Here in the city’s Oakwood Heights neighborhood, along the banks of the Rouge River in the middle of Michigan’s most polluted ZIP code, Draus looks past Southwest Detroit’s scarred industrial landscape and sees a diamond in the rough.
In the wake of Marathon’s multi-billion-dollar expansion and its controversial home-buyout program here, Draus and his colleagues in the Fort-Rouge Gateway Partnership envision a greener future where the grass is transformed into a small, but strategic green space, a critical link in the Iron Belle bike trail and a buffer zone amid a sea of gray. And this weekend, their goal is getting some assitance from a famed Welsh punk rocker.
“I come from Newport in South Wales, and violent struggle against social injustice is writ large in the history of that town,” says Langford, known for his work with groups like Mekons and Waco Brothers. “The Chartists were gunned down in numbers there in 1839 for asking for democratic reforms that we take for granted today.”
In his 40 years of making music, Jon Langford has earned a reputation for not doing things by the book. That applies most notably to the Mekons, a band the Welsh native cofounded in Leeds in the late 70s, whose sound has evolved over the decades from rudimentary punk to a dark, strange melange of rock, folk, country, and even reggae. In 1984 they played a series of benefits for striking coal miners, whose communities were being starved by Margaret Thatcher’s decision to close many UK mines—a burst of activity that produced their early masterpiece Fear and Whiskey. When the Mekons went on their first U.S. tour in 1986, it was a a revelation for Langford. “Starting as a teenager, there was a longing for America and wanting to go there and wanting to find out things about it,” he says. [ . . . ]
For many musicians, it’s a dream to record in the famed Shoals region with members of the legendary Muscle Shoals recording crew. But Jon Langford was invited to do just that, completely sight-unseen. After producing artwork for an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2015, the Welsh musician was invited to come out to Alabama to record by Elvis’s former bassist and member of Muscle Shoals rhythm section, Norbert Putnam.Joined by f