The Freelance Mentalists.
Friday, August 22, 2014
  Doe, A Dear
More from old newspapers.

By Don Allred

Although the marriage of John Doe and Exene Cervenka ended in 1984, they kept wrangling new tracks with their headstrong, headlong California punk group X until 1993.  Today, fourteen years after the original line-up of X got back together, singer/songwriter Doe's combustible combo add up to one highly reliable road band. This fall, having recently toured with the Knitters, a hardy Americana outfit which began as an X side project, and Jill ("I Kissed A Girl") Sobule, with whom he recorded the sly underdog anthems of 2011's  A Day At The Pass, Doe joined X in a round of Latin American shows, opening for Pearl Jam. X will  hit the Sunbelt circuit  in December, after Doe's own Midwestern shows.

(The last time he played Columbus Cowtown, Doe and Canada's Sadies brought soulful, frequently feedback-roasted honky tonk jukebox chestnuts, from their '09 Country Club. The show still turns up on YouTube.)(For instance: "The Have-Nots" Live)

Doe's solo albums have been reinvigorated by X's second life as a concerts-only experience, and, he said, " the freedom from having to write for them."  Also, lessons learned from the  dissolution of his nearly twenty-five year second marriage helped provide the alchemy of songs such as "Golden State," slamming into its chorus: "We are luck/We are fate/We are the feeling you get in the Golden State." The sound of freedom also sweeps all philosophizing into a new, challenging reality: "It's the feeling I get/When you walk away."

"Pieces of sadness exist in everything, but it doesn't have to be the only thing,"  Doe said recently. His new Keeper gives us love songs with teeth, such as "Little Tiger,"  which might be about one of his three daughters, prowling through private sorrow. Still, nothing here is too narrowly defined.  "Have you noticed all the time travelers in cities recently?" he asked at least one recent audience, introducing "Giant Step Backwards." It's about a guy who hears that his "factory girl" has suddenly disappeared from where he depended on her to remain, in the story of his life. He's rallying for a new quest, possibly in time, but also, Doe suggested, it has to do with "men getting too far ahead in relationships, needing to let the other person step forward."
The reflections of Keeper are polished just enough, sometimes to a slightly surreal glow. "Moonbeam" is a recently unearthed, vibrantly atmospheric R&B ballad, which gets crowded when the background singers jump into Danny White's vintage original, but Doe's cover keeps the wonder discreetly at hand. We also get a compatibly restive remake of an X classic, in which a battered wife "flips a finger" in farewell to a bartender who can only offer pity. Then she  sways  towards the Greyhound station, declaring, "Roses are red/Violence is too/Everybody knows/I'm painting the town blue." Sounds like a fairly bright blue, one that might guide her through the smog.

John Doe and His Rockin' Band, with supporting act  Robert Ellis, will perform at the Rumba Cafe on Monday, November 28. Doors open 7 p.m. Ellis plays  at 9 p.m., Doe at  10 p.m. 18+ show. $12. Under-21 pays $ 2 surcharge at door. For more information, please see

(update: full album here:

*my 2009 show preview:

John Doe & The Sadies

John Doe (still with the reunited X) and The Sadies (colleagues of Neko Case) take a well-timed ride on “Country Club” ‘s honky tonk marriage-go-round of old-schooled roolers. These testimonials are more affecting for passing by a little faster (and funnier, as the Sadies punctuate git-through-it wit). The Sadies also carefully steer Doe across neon shadows, to truly see: “This ain’t no life. But it’s my life!” Another soul saved by (or for) the jukebox!

05/10 @ The Rumba, 2507 Summit St.

10  p.m.

Sunday, August 10, 2014
  Harvest of the Black Swans
Understanding Land is the recently-released full-length solo debut of Jerry David DeCicca, and it sure sounds like a Black Swans sidetrip album to me. (Yes, yet more turns: as I later said in my N-Scene ballot comments, posted on here as Thru The Polled, Rain & Snow: With Urban Ohio having been replanted fairly deeply in Texoidcanahe murmurs, raises glimpses, puts 'em back, from here to the screen door horizon, between female compass notes, educated yet un-picky picking) (Also: DeC. production acolyte Bird And Flower/Eve Searls chimes in, train train.). Meanwhile, please partake of a couple vintage glimpses up Black Swans way:

Summer of the Black Swans
By Don Allred June 1, 2011

On their 2004 debut album, Who Will Walk In The Darkness With You?, the Columbus-based Black Swans' usual slow, post-Americana sway leads the way through what could be just another haunted house. But the parlor crooner wishes too hard for life in one still moment of memory, and his antique easy chair begins to rock.  Some subsequent tracks, like "Black Swan Blues," even brush fresh, beautiful bruises across his suddenly sharpened senses. Lesson learned---so, while the  Swans' sweetly spooked and screwed, brave and inspired 2006 Sex Brain is a leap, it takes no stretch (except in a go-o-o-d way).
2007's Change! raises a juicy moonlight harvest of homegrown surrealism for a hungry community, then (and always) still forming. Co-founding Swan Jerry DiCicca  also found his way to some seemingly unlikely production clients, secretly ready to be drawn out. Columbus attorney Eve Searls, of the solo-project-to-band Bird And Flower, was one such born traveler. Ditto elusive Georgia country singer Larry Jon Wilson, who showed up sounding right at home, while "runnin' on a long chain."
DeCicca may have held that thought. The Black Swans set aside their richly promising  Don't Blame The Stars in 2008, and started winding up for a left-field 2010 release, Words Are Stupid. It expertly prowls  the walls of life, like the twisted balloon critters of DeCicca's  party-attending alter ego, Dr. Silverfoot. Despite the unexpected death of Noel Sayre, who began performing with DeCicca in 1995, Sayre's newly discovered violin tracks swirl through songs growing around his sound. The album's recording process, which DeCicca regarded as "therapeutic," also preceded points of ongoing artistic departure. "All songs are game now,"  DeCicca recently reported. "I made a breakthrough with one in Portugal. I thought it was off-limits 'til  it happened!"
Thus, the Black Swans found and took the scenic route back to Don't Blame The Stars. Finally out on May 31, its well-populated, mostly live-in-the--garage-studio contemplation surges with the same intimate dynamic as their shows.  The song "Joe Tex" celebrates the congenially inventive soul singer of its title, while the narrator also plows gray fields, with no contradiction. And, after all, "There's no way of tellin'/If the world's cryin' or it's yellin'/So raise up your arms and dance with me."
This record release party includes most of the Swans appearing on DBTS, plus their regular drummer Keith Hanlon, who recorded the album while Brian Jones sat in. We can also expect songs from "previous and forthcoming releases," DeCicca advised. (They just may have another one out later in 2011.)
The Black Swans will be performing with supporting acts the Alwood Sisters Band and Moviola at the Rumba Cafe, on Friday, June 3. The show starts at 10  p.m. $6 all audiences. For more information, please visit or

Bonus 2010 show preview:

The Black Swans
Saturday @ Rumba Café
On Words Are Stupid, Columbus' Black Swans present language with a new set of sounds, poetically persuasive even when abrasive, and no stranger than George Washington's wooden teeth. The late Noel Sayre's violin and kazoo sometimes appear; their relationship always seems key. You could call this "post-Americana", but the foreign intrigue of "Black Swans Tango" fits too. Despite an ear-popping flight, a typically stubborn romantic jumps onstage "with a band I cannot hear", serenading his sweetie with very special delivery. Love conquers all! Also vice versa, but still.


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