I still remember the day the Knitters' LPPoor Little Critters On the Road
landed on the desk holding my outstretched legs in a Southern California newsroom in the mid-1980s. "What in tarnation is this?" I asked myself while ogling the cover illustration of a lady raising her arms with alarm at the sight of four guys who'd just been run over by a station wagon. Then I flipped it over, scanned the black-and-white mugshots, and said, "Hey, what areJohn Doe
, Exene and D.J. of X; handsome Dave of the Blasters; and this other dude doin' on this dad-gum thing?"
Giving it a spin once I got home, I discovered what they were doin': drawing their fans and anyone else who'd give it a listen closer to the roots of X and the Blasters' setlists. I was so blown away by John Doe's take on Merle Haggard's "Silver Wings" that I loaned the album to a country-and-western aficionado, demanding he agree with my contention Poor Little Critters On the Road could play on redneck radio. He returned the album to me with a sneer--then admitted he had appropriated the title track for his own country duo. For months on end, I'd pass by his desk and still hear him bellowing, "Poor little critter on the rooooooooooooooooad . . ."
As a solo or guest artist, Doe has often X-posed his country-fried side, as you'll hear should you duck into Detroit Bar Sunday night. He'll no doubt pluck material from his latest, Country Club (Yep Roc Records), which paired the punk icon with the Sadies. Something to do with a promise Doe and the Canadian roots rockers made to one another at a post-gig booze-a-thon.
What resulted from the collaboration is a collection of ripping covers of classics and near-classics written by the likes of Roger Miller, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. Country Club also features three originals composed by the Sadies, as well as "It Just Dawned On Me," which Doe co-wrote with Cervenka. I must admit that while listening to Doe harmonize with his daughter Veronica Jane Doe on that song, I was imagining what it would have sounded like with his ex- in the recording booth.
If Doe's taking requests, ask for:
Doe and the Sadies transformed theHank Williams
ballad into a Buck Owens-style romp. But Doe's mournful voice maintains the pain heard in the original.
popularized this tune by Carl Belew and W.S. Stevenson in the late 1950s, and Haggard and Waylon Jennings went on to cover it. But the Doe/Sadies version borrowed more from Dwight Yoakum's Bakersfield-tonky take, with Doe's world-weary voice proving to be a perfect fit.
Undaunted by Sammi Smith having years ago turned theKris Kristofferson
song into a country classic, Doe's new storyteller-like reading only amplifies the subject's yearning for sexual intimacy.
Doe comes as close as anyone can to makingPorter Wagoner
's murder-ballad classic, written by Bill Anderson, his own.
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It's not on the Sadies record, but expect shivers inside Detroit Bar if just Doe and his acoustic take onMerle Haggard
John Doe with special guests at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600. Sun., 9 p.m. $15. 21+.