Album review: John Doe's 'Keeper'
John Doe has long sung of ill-fated relationships and social dysfunction, yet he’s consistently managed to maintain an underlying attitude that life’s somehow always worth the trouble.
Still, it’s a bit of a shock to hear him say in regard to his latest solo effort: “As you grow up, you realize that a certain amount of satisfaction and happiness is a very good thing. Pieces of sadness exist in everything, but it doesn’t have to be the only thing.”
It’s certainly not on this successor to 2007’s hauntingly dark “A Year in the Wilderness.” Just two tracks into this powerful but emotionally brighter work, he crafts an irresistibly rollicking, neo-"La Bamba” groove in “Never Enough,” a meditation on the wonders of insatiability. It’s a song you wish would go on forever, and in a live setting maybe it can.
“Handsome Devil” conjures a jagged, eerie mystique that harks back to the days of X, whose signature dissonant harmonies crop up here periodically. “Moonbeam” evokes a midnight walk in the desert with its spare electric guitar and bluesy drum work.
Doe gets journeyman support from producer Dave Way and a stable of roots-music veterans from L.A. and beyond, among them Don Was, Steve Berlin, Smokey Hormel, Greg Leisz, Patty Griffin and Cindy Wasserman. With “Keeper,” Doe beautifully balances a rocker’s heart and a poet’s soul.
-- Randy Lewis
Three and a half stars (Out of four)