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Friday, April 17, 2009

Album REview: John Doe (of X) and the Sadies

To fans of American punk and alt-country traditions, John Doe is legendary. He was the bassist and vocal counterpart to the inimitable Exene Cervenka in the influential ‘80s LA roots-punk band X. But it was in a 1986 X side project, a band called the Knitters and an album called Poor Little Critter on the Road, where his potential for a more stripped-down, raw but full country vocal style unveiled itself. That potential was perhaps clearest in his reprise of Merle Haggard’s heart-strumming ballad about airplanes, seen as symbols of love lost and omens of loneliness. Yet it wasn’t until four years later that Doe would set out on a mainly alt-country solo career with his well-received debut album Meet John Doe (Geffen). Eight consistently strong albums later, we find the mature Doe at home in the genre, while demonstrating his individuality.

Doe’s eighth release Country Club, with Toronto-based band the Sadies, hearkens back to the Knitters period and his budding love affair with country classics. It features hits by Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard and others. The result is impressive overall. For some, Doe’s voice is as recognizable as greats like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, or Hank Williams, or Nick Cave, Tom Waits or Neil Young. It’s often described as “leathery.” Indeed, there’s a rumor of Mike Ness scruff to it, but counterbalanced by a full, nearly crooner-like quality at times. That fullness is decidedly pronounced on tracks such as Hank Snow’s “Now and Then, There’s a Fool Such as I Am”. In the more up-tempo songs, his voice can’t hang on half- and whole notes, yet that deep sometimes nasally quality gives these classics a refreshing twist. Indeed, his style across these songs seems to oscillate between models of Merle Haggard and a more sandpapered but equally full Johnny Cash, albeit with a dose of twang-remover applied. REad on here.

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Formerly "Parisnormale: Paris Rocks"