Once A Day

Nick West's reviews for Bucketfull Of Brains and Rock'N'Reel

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Location: London, United Kingdom

Co-editor and publisher of Bucketfull Of Brains since 1996.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


JOHN DOE

A YEAR IN THE WILDERNESS

(YEP ROC)

2005’s Forever Hasn’t Happened Yet was spare, beautiful, and blues-laden. A collection bearing comparison with Dylan’s recent work and cementing Doe’s place in the first rank of American creative performers. Surrounding his uniquely raw tenor with the fundamentals of roots music he and co-producer Dave Way created a singular aural landscape.

Here they continue in the same vein but enlarge the palette. As before they employ singularly talented guests; wild rockabilly and frenzied slide guitar from Dave Alvin and Dan Auerbach, and Greg Leisz’s keening pedal steel. Doe learnt early that his voice showed well in duet and since Exene there’s been a host of partners. Here we find Jill Sobule, Kathleen Edwards, and Aimee Mann.

The record unfolds like a collection of vignettes of an unravelling relationship. The overheated ‘Hotel Ghost’, driven by Alvin’s guitar sets the mood. ‘The Golden State’, an anthemic duet with Edwards and perhaps the finest song here, lays bare the frictions and generalises them.

After two almost-pretty songs, ‘Darling Underdog’ and the regret-filled country song ‘A Little More Time’, there are perspectives of breakdown in ‘Lean Out Yr Window’, ‘Big Moon’ and ‘The Bridge’. Then the explosion of ‘The Meanest Man In the World’, rendering both a crime and the essence of its author.

‘Grain Of Salt’ plays out the album, starting small and growing into a devastating instrumental outro. Supposed to mirror the effect of the grain of salt gradually making a pearl, its fury leaves no certitude that this season in hell has any happy resolution.

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