Category: Exene Cervenka

John Doe and Exene Cervenka 'Singing and Playing' on first duo album

John Doe and Exene Cervenka have released their first-ever album as a duo
The first-ever duo album from X founding singers and chief songwriters Exene Cervenka and John Doe began about three years ago as a humble keepsake they made as a fan-only offer to those who turned out for their 2009-2010 tour as a twosome.

Now it’s been released by a fledgling label, Orange-based Moonlight Graham Records. It the inaugural offering from what is promised to be a string of recordings by Southern California musicians that will also include former TSOL frontman Jack Grisham and beyond.

The eight tracks on “John Doe and Exene Cervenka Singing and Playing Live” constitute a combination of songs written independently and several on which they collaborated. Included are "Never Enough," which Doe recorded in a different version for his 2011 solo album, "Keeper," and "Lonesome War," which Cervenka had written on her own, but never released. ("It was tailor-made for us," Doe said.)

Pop & Hiss sat down with them last week to talk about the album for a profile in Tuesday’s Calendar. Doe, who arrived first to the interview, was invited to talk about the first track, “It Just Dawned on Me,” which stood out as a sterling example of the unexpected directions that he and Cervenka have gone throughout their careers together and apart.

“It’s a typically John-and-Exene song,” he said of this stripped-down, predominantly acoustic affair that demonstrates how they still complement one another more than three decades after X was born on the gritty back streets of the City of Angels.

Its arc begins with the singer’s moment of awareness that a romantic partner has emotionally exited a relationship. Initial reactions of confusion and hurt lead to the realization that maybe the split isn’t such a bad thing after all.

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Exene Cervenka cancels tour, citing her MS

Exene Cervenka-Maggie St. Thomas Exene Cervenka has called off her current tour, citing a flare-up of the multiple sclerosis that she revealed in 2009 she has been diagnosed with.

Cervenka had performed last month in Austin at the South By Southwest Music Conference and then started what was to be a short tour in support of her new album, “The Excitement of Maybe.” But not long into it, she began experiencing pain and loss of use of her right hand and arm.

Here is the text of the statement the veteran punk rocker and roots music artist released today as an explanation and apology to fans about the shows she has had to scrap, including a stop Friday, April 15, in Los Angeles.

The statement also said she hopes to reschedule the dates in the near future.

“As you probably know by now, I was diagnosed with MS. I have been doing relatively well. I thought I could handle SXSW in Austin, and a short solo tour. However, I got sick in Austin during SX, it is a hard event even under the best of circumstances. It didn't seem that hot to me, but heat is very bad for those of us with MS.

“I started feeling bad almost as soon as I started playing on Wednesday and by Sunday night, I had a terrible headache and couldn't get out of bed. I didn't feel any better by Wednesday so I called my neurologist and got a prescription for steroids. I started to improve a little and thought I'd be okay to start my southwest/southeast tour on the following Friday.

“In retrospect, I should have called off the tour then and there. But I didn't want to cancel. Kevin Seconds, who was on the tour with me, met me in Austin, and we played our first show. But I wasn't getting better in Knoxville TN, a week later, I was fatigued and having a hard time functioning.

“When I took the stage that night, I was surprised to discover that my right hand and arm were not responding to my commands, and I couldn't play guitar. I apologized to the audience, talked a lot, and sang a cappella. Because I had driven ten hours from New Orleans, I hoped it was just fatigue from gripping the steering wheel so long. But I knew the tour was over.

“The next morning, after I called my booking agent and gave her the news, I sat down with Kevin Seconds and explained to him that I was too sick to continue, and would only be going as far as Memphis. I apologized. My friend flew into Memphis and drove me home, where I am now. I wouldn't have made it as far as I did without the help of my friends and the kindness of fans and strangers along the way.

“I am not an invincible road warrior anymore. The easiest part of touring is the hour on stage. The driving and staying with friends and finding hotels and advancing the shows and hauling around merch and guitars is the hard part. I've never canceled a tour before but it is more important for me to regain my health than continue.

“I never know when my MS will strike, and this was certainly bad timing for an attack. My apologies to the clubs, the fans, my label, and Mr. Seconds for this unfortunate event.”

Related:

Exene Cervenka reveals MS diagnosis

--Randy Lewis

Photo of Exene Cervenka. Credit: Maggie St. Thomas.

 

Album review: Exene Cervenka's 'The Excitement of Maybe'

Bs177_exenecvr_0 With her eclectic, thrift store-haunting style — part silent-era movie queen, part art-school urchin — Exene Cervenka has always been one to collage disparate eras and styles.

Cervenka’s artwork — rooted in crafts and assemblage — combines layers of kitsch Americana, Midcentury ephemera, bric-a-brac, found photographs and religious tracts with poetry and snippets of text in her distinctive scrawl, twisting these vestiges of our American past and making them her own.

“The Excitement of Maybe,” an album of love songs, is right in line with that project.

Her voice is itself a kind of craft object: modest, simple, unadorned. You wouldn’t call it a girl’s voice, but it’s anything but gnarled with the passage of time. Rather, Cervenka’s voice has an old-soul quality, one that harkens back to a tradition of American folk — call it old-time music, around-the-house music — that sought to express deep commonplace emotions out of the softly sustained, clear articulation of compact, non-oblique lyrical sentiment.

Musically, this album, like 2009’s solo effort “Somewhere Gone,” is a departure from the bold, imaginative roots punk of X and Cervenka’s other bands Auntie Christ and Original Sinners. Even the fun-loving country stomp of the Knitters is squirrelly compared to “Maybe.” (Fellow Knitter and world-class guitar mensch Dave Alvin appears here, on “Already in Love”). Lyric-wise, the album shares themes — aching despair, domestic romance — with her other bands. It’s a world of driving rain, jukeboxes, barkeeps poised to kick everybody out for the night, empty highways and burnished vistas.

Throughout, Cervenka accompanies herself on acoustic guitar, with bassist Christian McBride and backing vocalist Cindy Wasserman deftly layered in arrangements that occasionally include strings, horns and piano to great effect. Catchy and immensely singable, the endless vocal refrains on “The Excitement of Maybe” aren’t going to leave your brain anytime soon.

— Grace Krilanovich

Exene Cervenka
“The Excitement of Maybe”
Bloodshot Records
Three stars

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