Sunday, January 11, 2009

John Doe & Exene Cervenka; Justin Townes Earle @ MHOW

John Doe & Exene Cervenka; Justin Townes Earle
@ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Brooklyn, NY - January 10, 2009

In an "acoustic" setting (a legitimate description save for John using an electric guitar for decent portions of the set), John Doe and Exene Cervenka played an array of X, Knitters, and classic folk and country songs. They showed off some new ones, most of whose eventual recorded destination was left ambiguous but those described as belonging to the first person plural presumably mean a potential new Knitters or maybe even...gulp...X record? The setting allowed for a dissection of X and what made them so important - they were punk because they weren't like any other punk band - they were lyrically dense and ambitious, skillfully musical and proficient, and they culled their work from multiple sources, never content to be boxed in. The fact that time and again they come back to country and folk sounds leads one to conclude that X were a country band trapped in a punk band's body.

Justin Townes Earle, like his old man Steve Earle, moved to Brooklyn, upping the borough's real old-timey country quotient by a considerable margin. The Crown Heights based (yes, that's right, a country rocker from the Earle family living in Crown Heights) guitarist, along with his buddy Cory, took the audience through a winding road trip of the South, from the Appalachians to the small towns to the Boxcar trains (a big nod to Woody Guthrie was needed and made). Cory played both banjo and mandolin, not making it easy to figure out the answer to the age old question: which of these two instruments is the best instrument of all time? It was a ridiculously good set.

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