John Doe’s “Psychadelic Soul Record” From the Desert

Doe remains a stirring singer who embodies weary determination and impassioned grace on “The Westerner.”


John Doe
The Westerner
Cool Rock Records/Thirty Tigers

Shepard Fairey & Aaron Huey

First heard almost 40 years (!) ago as a member of the great LA punk group X, John Doe never fit the clichés of the genre, intertwining his voice with bandmate Exene Cervenka’s in wailing harmonies that sounded more like hillbilly laments than nihilist diatribes. As a solo artist, he’s compiled a striking body of work that spans the 57 varieties of roots music. Dedicated to his late friend Michael Blake (author of Dances with Wolves), The Westerner is billed by Doe as his “psychedelic, soul record from the Arizona desert,” which is another way of saying he’s delivered a dusty, sure-handed set of vibrant down-home rock’n’folk full of longing, sympathy, and hope. Joined by guest vocalists Debbie Harry of Blondie and Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power), Doe remains a stirring singer who embodies weary determination and impassioned grace on the heart-tugging ballad “Sunlight” and the greasy foot-stomper “Go Baby Go.” Tough and tender and once, The Westerner is a genuine old-school treasure.