CD Review of Country Club by John Doe and the Sadies
John Doe and the Sadies: Country Club
Recommended if you like
Willie Nelson, Raul Malo, Hank Williams
Yep Roc
John Doe and the Sadies:
Country Club

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

hat’s the result when you combine the powers and prowess of two off-kilter entities like John Doe and the Sadies? One would think the combination would produce something so totally askew it would rattle the reputations of each, so imagine the surprise to find the two tapping tradition and offering homage to Nashville’s finest. They may regale in their roots, but who would have thought they’d actually dig so deep?

Of course, both Doe and the Sadies have hewn their careers from heartland traditions, however unlikely the result, and neither would have been seen as a candidate for indulging in Americana, at least not the back porch variety. Doe made the most radical transformation of the two, mutating from the insurgent stance he first proffered with punk anarchists X into that of a journeyman rocker of sorts, one whose reverence for folk convention and blue-collar values found him investing his efforts with a sort of gritty dustbowl mentality. For their part, the Sadies have cross-pollinated their country croon with equally unlikely influences, including hard core, garage rock and surf sounds.

All of which makes this current collaboration both strange and entertaining. With a title that gives away the premise without second-guessing, Country Club finds the musicians mining the timeless country classics that brought the likes of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and Roger Miller to stardom and to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Still, it’s not the choice of material – much of which will be familiar fare to even the more casual country music enthusiast – but the reverence of the interpretations. Where there might have been a temptation to turn songs like "A Fool Such As I," "I Still Miss Someone," "Stop the World and Let Me Get Off" and "Help Me Make It through the Night" into a mockery of melancholia, the participants play up the pathos and effectively recreate the original arrangements. "Husbands and Wives" maintains its message about fidelity and commitment even at the risk of sounding hopelessly idealistic. Likewise, "Night Life" still traipses through the after-hours, a harbinger of desire and despair.

The authenticity is so genuine, in fact, that the album’s one original, "It Just Dawned on Me," co-written by Doe and X partner Exene Cervenka, could be easily mistaken for one of the standards, given that the set-up is so convincing. If Doe and the Sadies were so inclined, they could reside at this Country Club indefinitely.

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