John Doe and the Sadies: Live Last Night

Live Last Night

The great Los Angeles punkabilly quartet known as X had already made its best albums by 1985, when three-fourths of its lineup joined guitarist Dave Alvin to form the country and western spin-off the Knitters. That band took 20 years to brew a follow-up, but X/Knitters co-frontman John Doe's sand-polished voice proved to be such a natural and expressive delivery system for old-timey C&W that you suspected he'd eventually get around to cutting a record like "Country Club" -- his month-old set of (mostly) "countrypolitan" classics, recorded with Toronto-based roots eclecticians the Sadies.

Doe and the Sadies eschewed Stetsons in favor of sportjackets at Iota on Friday night. It was a rollicking big-tent hootenanny that found room for a dozen or so of those venerable standards, plus originals from both of their songbooks and a couple of Knitters and X numbers to boot.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

That's an embarrassment of riches already, but we also got handful of other well-curated covers on which Sadie Travis Good brought the growl and Doe supplied the howl -- the former on Marty Robbins's gunfightin' ballad "Big Iron," and the latter on Webb Pierce's alcoholic lament "There Stands the Glass."

For honky-tonk revelry, nothing topped X's "The New World" followed by Merle Haggard's "Are the Good Times Really Over for Good," two postcards from the early-'80s recession that could've been written last month.

But this being a country show and all, the slow jams were just as abundant, and just as swell. Good's high-and-lonesome guitar matched Doe's sensitive delivery on weepers like Kris Kristofferson's "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and Doe's own overlooked ballad, "A Little More Time."

The Sadies have previously backed Jon Langford and Neko Case. Like Langford, Doe is a punk-gone-country; like Case, he's a performer whose easygoing persona belies a predilection for lyrical darkness. So that the Sadies are musically and spiritually simpatico with Doe came as no surprise. Sometimes merely living up to expectations is plenty good enough.


By J. Freedom du Lac |  May 10, 2009; 8:41 PM ET Live Last Night
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