The Mekons are among the few bands surviving from the "glory days" of punk rock — 2007 marks their 30th anniversary. The reason for their longevity (aside from their members engaging in an assortment of musical activities apart from Mothership Mekons) is their treating music as a constantly changing, evolving organism. Without being flaky, the Mekons have never trod the same stylistic path for very long, and Natural continues their (anti-) tradition. Most of their new disc is acoustic and folk-oriented, with the 'kons drawing from an assortment of folk traditions. The harmonica echoes Woody Guthrie and Dylan, the lilting rhythms recall calypso, the fiddle's high, lonesome sound carries Anglo-Celtic and pre-country string band conventions, and the restrained electric twang of "Diamonds" recalls Marty Robbins' and Neil Young's desert prairie tales. The most "electric" track here is "Zeroes and Ones," a sea chanty for our cell phone-oriented world ("Planets whirl, bodies entwined/I can't hear you/You're cutting out"). Their adorably ramshackle harmonies convey world-weariness with boozy undertones of perseverance, and Sally Timms' warble remains a heavenly cross between Dolly Parton and Nico. Natural may not be for novices (who are directed to The Mekons Rock 'n' Roll), but the smitten — you've gotta have it. If Johnny Cash or H.L. Mencken were born a few generations later, they'd likely be Mekons.


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