The title of John Doe’s new album couldn’t be more appropriate. The Westerner, which will be released April 29th, finds the co-founder of Los Angeles punk legends X meditating across open expanses of the desert, sun burning bright in the sky and the arid landscape shimmering with mystery.
Doe’s inspiration came in a feverish burst in Tucson, Arizona, where he was recording with Howe Gelb (of Giant Sand) and spent time with his friend, author Michael Blake (Dances With Wolves), hours before his death. From the opening rumble of The Westerner‘s leadoff track “Get On Board,” Blake’s spiritual presence and the inevitability of mortality are threaded through the album.
“This may not be a country record but it is definitely a Western record,” Doe tells Rolling Stone Country. “It has all the horizon, sand and beautifully scary things of the desert.”
Reverb-heavy, twangy guitars punctuate “My Darling, Blue Skies,” propelled by Doe’s wild-eyed repetition and distorted stabs of organ that recall the Doors. “Alone in Arizona” is as desolate as its title, with narcotic acoustic guitar strums and ominous, trebly bursts of electric guitar accenting Doe’s narrative of loss and longing. Blondie’s Debbie Harry lends her voice to “Go Baby Go,” one of a handful of revved-up garage-rock tunes that act as a counterbalance to the album’s quieter moments. Listen to it in full below.
Additionally, Doe’s first book Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk, will be published on May 1st. As an integral part of the scene with X, Doe’s own account of the time will be accompanied by contributions from members of other influential Los Angeles punk and hardcore bands.