YEP ROC NXNE BLAST featuring JOHN DOE (1 am), the SADIES (midnight), ROCK PLAZA CENTRAL (11 pm), JIM LAUDERDALE (10 pm) and SUN PARLOuR PLAYERS (9 pm), at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Friday (June 8). $15. www.nxne.com. Rating: NNNNN
Although John Doe's recent solo recordings bear little resemblance to his explosive work with ground-floor Los Angeles punks X, he learned a few important lessons making those classic recordings.
The one about singing with skilled women vocalists is near the top of the list, and he closely adheres to it on his emotionally deep and dark A Year In The Wilderness (Yep Roc). The disc greatly benefits from the contributions of Aimee Mann, Jill Sobule and, in particular, Kathleen Edwards, whose phrasing and timbre seem perfectly suited to Doe's signature drawl.
Their duet on The Golden State makes it the best of the bunch, a no-brainer for the album's lead single, and since Edwards is performing at NXNE, they'll get a chance to reprise their duets during Doe's set at Lee's Palace Friday night.
"Kathleen has a great voice," says Doe from his Los Angeles home, "which I found out first-hand at a Musicians Assistance Program benefit where everyone was doing Gram Parsons songs. I was going to sing We'll Sweep Out The Ashes, and, having heard Kathleen's Failer album, I thought she could handle the Emmylou Harris parts, and she did very well at that.
"We had some whisky and really hit it off. What impressed me about Kathleen was the way she could use the word "cocksucker' and not sound foolish or like she was pretending. So we stayed in touch, and when the song Golden State sounded like it needed to be a duet, Kathleen was my first choice. When I called her up, she said, "Sure, when do I show up?'
The studio sessions for A Year In The Wilderness were so instructive for Doe and he had such a good time with the guest singers and musicians that his biggest regret in making the album was that it didn't take longer to finish.
"Each of the women who sang on the record had a completely different way of working. Aimee Mann was always checking herself and checking with me to be sure what she was doing was what the song required. Not that she was insecure, but just very considerate and methodical about getting everything just right, piece by piece.
"Kathleen, on the other hand, has a much more intuitive approach. She'll just go in and do the whole song, straight through from top to bottom. If it sounds good it's a keeper, and if not she'll try it again.
"Jill is totally mathematical about her singing. She wants to know what each note is and where it goes, almost like she's diagramming it in her head. But once she's got it mapped out, she simply lets it all flow, and everything fits perfectly in place. They each did an amazing job. Women singers definitely make me sound better."
Additional Interview Audio Clips
John Doe reveals that he has two new films coming out in the near future