The Mekons, 'Fear and Whiskey' (1985)
Formed in 1977 by a loose assemblage of British art students, the Mekons didn't hit their stride until 1985's bleak yet spirited Fear and Whiskey. According to singer-guitarist Jon Langford, that was when "the difference between the three chords of country and the three chords of punk became blurred." Inspired by an ill-fated UK coal miners strike that echoed countless Appalachian laments, the Mekons rocked a new kind of resistance. Susie Honeyman's back-porch fiddling added a fresh element to the group's shambolic essence. Last waltzes, two-steps and a warped cover of Hank Williams's "Lost Highway" comfort those afflicted with "darkness and doubt." Hoping for the best while expecting the worst, the ever-idealistic Mekons celebrate failure and loss. It's the sound of both country music and the country of England falling apart. R.G.