June 25, 2007


In Performance: John Doe: The 'X' Man Returns (Linda Wertheimer, June 23, 2007, Weekend Edition Saturday)

The legendary early-'80s band X was famous for blending the brashness of punk with the unpretentiousness of country and roots-rock. But when the group split up and bassist/songwriter John Doe went solo, his first album under his own name (1990's Meet John Doe) was a fairly straightforward collection of traditional-style country songs. It was one of many unexpected moves in Doe's ever-evolving career, which has spanned everything from X reunions (and a reunion of its side project, The Knitters) to acting.

In the past 20 years, Doe has also recorded the occasional solo album between movie roles (he has appeared in Wyatt Earp, Salvador, Great Balls of Fire and more). And, though he has incorporated some heavier rock sounds along the way, Doe remains an unpretentious roots musician at heart.

Doe just released a disc called A Year in the Wilderness, and recently sat down in the studio to play a few of his new songs. In between performances, he talks about the mythic qualities of the lonely, liberating American West, as well as the differences between song lyrics and poetry.

REVIEW: of John Doe : A Year in the Wilderness (Jennifer Kelly, 6/22/07, PopMatters)
John Doe could easily coast for the rest of his life on his history—with ground-breaking cow-punkers X and alt.country-inventing Knitters and, since the late 1990s, in a string of seven solo albums, ranging from country-flavored singer songwriter to venom-laced roadhouse punk. It’s all been good to excellent, and sometimes revelatory, and if he quit right now, he’d still be a legend. Heck, I’d give him a lifetime pass just for “Big Blue House”.

The point, though, is that John Doe doesn’t owe us anything. The fact that he’s made his best-ever solo album roughly 30 years after he started is gravy. Recorded, reportedly, in just two weeks, Doe’s seventh solo CD ranges over boot-stomping garage rockers ("Hotel Ghost") and lovely pop-leaning duets ("Golden State” with Kathleen Edwards). It showcases Cash-like murder balladry ("The Meanest Man in the World") and brings Exene Cervenka back into the fold, at least as a lyricist, in the wryly melancholy “Darling Underdog”. [...]

“Hotel Ghost” is one of a clutch of greasy rockers, a only a notch or two better than “There’s a Hole” or “Lean Out Your Window”, but still clearly the stand-out. It stands alongside an equal number of pop-country ballads, where Doe is assisted by a trio of leading ladies—Kathleen Edwards, Jill Sobule, and Aimee Mann. “The Golden State”, his duet with Kathleen Edwards is the best of these, her sweet, vibrato-touched harmonies and strong solo interludes providing a yin/yang balance that will remind you strongly of X.

Strange as it seemed when the more traditional Dave Alvin briefly joined X -- but long enough to give them their two best tunes 4th of July (one of the 5 perfect rock songs ever) and "See How We Are" [profanity alert] -- it makes perfect sense that the second half of John Doe's career has seen him become Dave Alvin.

Dave Alvin and the Blasters on what must be the revered Uncle Floyd Show:

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 25, 2007 12:01 AM
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