Release Date: Aug 29, 2011
Record label: Yep Roc
Genre(s): Country, Alt-Country, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Neo-Traditionalist Country
Continuing his evolution from L.A. punk forefather (with X) to tender of the Bakersfield honky-tonk flame (see Merle Haggard, Buck Owens), Doe follows his excellent 2009 collaboration with The Sadies, Country Club, with a scruffier set of rockers. Dude’s a film/TV actor in his spare time, as well, and you can tell. On "Giant Step Backwards," he’s a former factory worker longing for a lost partner.
In the liner notes to Keeper, John Doe's ninth solo album, he thanks producer Dave Way "and the players and singers, they made this happen. " Doe is being a bit too modest, considering his always impressive gifts as a vocalist and songwriter, but just as 2009's Country Club was one of his finest solo efforts, in large part because of the strength of his musical partners the Sadies, the crew of musicians on Keeper is powerful enough to push Doe to the top of his game, and it does make a difference. Keeper opens with the one-two punch of "Don't Forget How Much I Love You," a country-flavored love song with a rock & roll heart, and "Never Enough," a rollicking slice of punk-informed roots rock that's snide and joyous at once, and it's been a long time since Doe has sounded like he's had this much fun on plastic.
John Doe’s punk days might be long behind him, but there’s only so much mellowing out that he’s capable of. He might not be mired in drugs and desperation like he was when he sang for L.A. punks X, but he makes adult life and grown-up relations sound like worthy struggles on Keeper. Even when he’s embracing open-chord strumming, sighing steel guitar and pledges of dedication that bring to mind Jackson Browne on opener “Don’t Forget How Much I Love You,” he still sings it with the gusto he once used to sneer at LA scenesters.
John Doe's 10th solo album is a loose, romantic melding of pop, country and punk recorded in L.A. with long-term collaborator Dave Way. Despite the evident talent of his backup band - vocalists Patti Griffin and Jill Sobule, guitarist Smokey Hormel, bassist Don Was and Giant Sand's Howe Gelb on piano - it takes a while to get into, in part because the arrangements are often so busy that they verge on chaotic.
For a working artist, success can be a curse as well as a blessing. Every time Paul McCartney steps into the recording studio, he has the Mount Rushmore-sized spectre of The Beatles looking over his shoulder. And every time Bob Dylan releases an album, he knows that critics from every magazine, newspaper, and website on the planet are going to remind him his new work can’t hold a candle to Blonde on Blonde or Blood on the Tracks.
Comeback of the year? Not quite, but this mid-60s countrypolitan hit maker gets a major boost from Marty Stuart as producer/co-songwriter/musician on Smith’s first album in eight years. These broken-hearted love ditties feature her emotional, traditional country voice atop stripped down arrangements that highlight her talents with tunes that are retro yet not musty. Gary Carter’s crying steel guitar will melt the hardest heart and the whole project will give goosebumps to anyone who cherishes the good old days of the Grand Ole Opry.