April 19, 2005
Any musician—let alone a pioneering punk rocker—who ages gracefully gets nothing but props in my book. Such is the case for John Doe, who after bringing roots music into the punk rock fold with X during the ’80s, has maintained a solo career that has been a rewarding proposition for anyone interested in roots music that sports some serious fangs. Forever Hasn’t Happened Yet continues in this vein, as Doe brought in a collection of guests (including six-string specialists Dave Alvin and Smokey Hormel, as well as vocalists Neko Case, Grant Lee Phillips, and Kristin Hersh), and recorded a collection of originals the old-fashioned way: “In a small, sweaty room until the song squeezes through the cracks,” according to Doe. The results are striking, as earthy guitar tones—ranging from bellowing baritones to lovingly burnished acoustic timbres—cradle laments of California’s Central Valley, and Doe wrangles maximum emotion from each song with his unmistakable whiskey-soaked voice, making every lyric an event. Particularly on the blues “There’s a Black Horse,” which made my arm hairs snap to attention. A great record from beginning to end.