Monday, June 25, 2007

Meet John Doe

In general, people are not yet speaking of John Doe as an American treasure. Someday, that will certainly change, because he certainly is. Like Joe Strummer, John Doe, leader of the seminal L.A. punk band X, arose in the midst of the punk zeitgeist, but has always tapped into a far deeper vein of musical tradition than was initially superficially evident. Unlike the Clash, whose wheels came off at the height of their powers, X jumped the shark (see their 80s Hollywood-inspired cover of "Wild Thing") and kept going well past their prime. Nevertheless, John Doe deserves status as an elder statesman of American rock.

Following the end of X, John Doe quietly kept at it, finding his post-punk, alt-country-ish voice in a series of solo albums, the most recent of which, A Year In The Wilderness, beautifully paints a picture of Americana. On it, Doe ranges from the sublime ("The Golden State") to the earthy ("Unforgiven") and all blues-folk points in between. On the former, Doe is joined spectacularly by the great Kathleen Edwards, who plays a solid post-X Exene Cervenka. Also sharing duet duties are Aimee Mann and regular Lloyd Cole collaborator Jill Sobule.

While many of the songs on Wilderness would not sound out of place on records by say, Wilco or The Jayhawks (e.g., "Darling Underdog" or "A Little More Time"), a few are vintage John Doe, and could have been the staples of a modern-day X record (for example, the spooky "Hotel Ghost"). Some are just flat out rockers -- check out the bluesy stomper "There's A Hole," complete with rockabilly reverb on the vocals and mean slide guitar, and the celebratory "Lean Out Your Window," which makes for a killer last song of the last encore of the night.

John Doe certainly deserves discussion as an American icon, and A Year In The Wilderness certainly deserves your consideration.

MP3: John Doe - "Darling Underdog" from A Year In The Wilderness

YouTube: John Doe (w/ Cindy Wasserman) - "The Golden State"