John Doe

A Year in the Wilderness (Yep Roc)

Despite the volume and punky posture, L.A. punks X always had a rootsy side. Bassist John Doe's solo work since the band's demise has emphasized that traditional singer-songwriter attitude, with every album sounding increasingly rawer. His latest, A Year in the Wilderness, delivers 12 more snapshots from the bleak side of town, marked by Doe's weary tenor and insightful songwriting.

On this disc, it seems Doe has finally come to terms with the ghost of X. Two of his duets with Canadian folk rocker Kathleen Edwards are obviously based on the template of his legendary band, but they stand as compelling new works. "The Golden State" is a portrait of a tempestuous relationship, delivered with all the dark humor and soulful power that made his duets with Exene Cervenka so thrilling, while "Lean Out Your Window" is a noisy celebration of love, highlighted by grinding, gritty guitar fills from the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach. Doe's ironic humor is also evident on "Unforgiven," another hopeless ballad. Aimee Mann adds desperate background harmonies as Doe drops his glum punch line: "We all get what we deserve ... unfortunately." The album closes with "Grain of Salt," a country ballad that's one of the most wrenching tunes Doe's written about love gone wrong. The contrast of the verse, delivered only by Doe and his acoustic guitar, with the wailing electric coda of the full band makes it one of the album's most dramatic tracks.

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