Rocker John Doe Reaches Way Back

If you didn’t know he was a central figure of the L.A. punk scene, you’d think John Doe might have leapfrogged straight from the dusty circuit of 1940s country-western.

In the inaugural set of the John Doe Trio at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Va., the lanky entertainer sported a classic cowboy shirt, sang behind a vintage microphone and strummed a retro-style wooden guitar, backed by a standup bass and a drummer.

His songs, too, told of a yearning of a bygone America, with job struggles, pain, and death. It was the first stop of the tour following the release of his latest effort Fables in a Foreign Land that was borne of the COVID shutdown that also was a throwback to the pandemic of a century ago. 

And the songs of the new Fables in a Foreign Land are all consciously set in the 1890s, a time before planes, phones, video and internet further complicated and blurred life or death issues. But the new set of tunes weren’t so different than the songs he’s put out on his half dozen earlier solo efforts, such that the opening “The Losing Kind” went easily into the new “Never Coming Back” or even “Burning House of Love,” one of four X songs thrown into the setlist.

Behind the electricity and drive a lot of the fierce, driving songs of that seminal punk band were super-charged folk songs that fit into the continuity of the American songbook. 

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