At 63, former co-frontperson of the seminal California punk band X John Doe now looks and sounds the part of the dark-but-tender American roots bard. On his dusty, intimate 2016 album The Westerner, the transformation is complete – except of course that it is really no transformation at all. While X might have been most known for a uniquely stuttering, fashionably sleazy and occasionally strident take on punk aggression, they were always the most uniquely Americana expression of the universal punk impulse. Rockabilly, Southwestern and country modes account for a lot of X’s very best songs: Doe’s songs, supported eloquently by the roots authenticity of guitarist Billy Zoom.
Debbie Harry and Chan Marshall (Cat Power) cameo on The Westerner, but the most influential and telling “celebrity” presence here is that of co-producer Howe Gelb. The Westerner falls right into place with the work of his band Giant Sand and its more famous offshoot, Calexico: daring, dry and dusty indie roots/rock with bardic visions.
Riding an unexpected late-career high, the American treasure John Doe will visit Helsinki Hudson on Thursday, February 23 at 8 p.m. Doe will be emphasizing The Westerner, but will be playing selections from across his storied and prolific career. Tickets cost $20. For more information, visit www.helsinkihudson.com. Club Helsinki is located at 405 Columbia Street in Hudson.