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John Doe: A Year in the Wilderness (Yeproc)

At their best, X was and is my favorite band—there’s nothing like the way punk, rockabilly, poetry and revved up harmonies meet in their music. One of the leaders of that perfect-moment-in-L.A. band, John Doe also infuses his solo projects with a singular blend of edge, feeling and American roots. His latest release, A Year in the Wilderness, moves between rocking X-like tracks and atmospheric singer/songwriter ballads. It’s all superb—smart songs, strong playing (including wonderful guitar work on three tracks by the great Dave Alvin) and Doe’s gorgeous, emotional singing. But the songs that set this album apart from Doe’s previous solo efforts are the five tracks that benefit from the addition of wonderful female singers. Listen to “The Golden State.” Guest vocalist Kathleen Edwards gives Doe’s singer/songwriter sound some of that extra thing that X has when Doe and Exene Cervenka let it rip. On “Unforgiven,” Aimee Mann plays a crucial supporting role. And the full sound of those songs helps set up the quiet strength of songs like “A Little More Time.” It may seem simple, but the effect is quite powerful. Doe and co-producer/engineer Dave Way have hit on a way of taking Doe’s non-X recordings to the next level.

Producers: John Doe, Dave Way. Engineer: Dave Way. Studio: The Way Station. Mastering: Gavin Lurssen/Lurssen Mastering (Hollywood).
Barbara Schultz

LISTEN: Must Play
Golden State

LISTEN: Must Play
Little More Time

LISTEN: Must Play