Poor Little Knitter on the Road
A Tribute to the Knitters
When the Knitters — John Doe, Exene Cervenka, and D.J Bonebrake from X and Dave Alvin from the Blasters — ambled into a studio back in 1985 and cut the 12 tracks that made up Poor Little Critter on the Road , it’s doubtful they wanted to start anything. But start something they did. Much like the quote about the first Velvet Underground record — “only 1,000 people bought it, but they all formed a band” — the Knitters “punk goes country” hoot cast ripples that now, almost 15 years later, are still reaching the shore. By covering Merle Haggard, Leadbelly, and Helen Carter, Doe and crew opened some ears previously closed to country music. It’s hard to imagine alt.country as existing without it — or the Bloodshot label, for that matter.
The Bloodshot tribute dances with the one that brought ’em, so to speak, with an exact track by track remake of the original record by artists such as the Blacks (“The New World”), Whiskeytown (“Silver Wings”) and the Handsome Family. Standout cuts include Kelly Hogan with her old band, the Rock*A*Teens, doing “Someone Like You,” the Old ’97’s with John Doe on “Cryin’ But My Tears Are Far Away” and the Sadies with Catherine Irwin on “Walkin’ Cane.” Robbie Fulks is disturbingly perfect on “The Call of the Wreckin’ Ball” — you somehow can picture Robbie stompin’ chickens with glee. Finishing up the record is a cut left off the original record — “Try Anymore” — with Doe and Exene crooning a tale of lost love. For the crowd that lived “Loud Fast Rules” back in ’80s, this record was a shock that moved some people into areas of American music that they previously had ignored. The artists on this record all owe something to the passions of John Doe and his pals — and they pay it back nicely.
Bloodshot Records, 3039 W. Irving Park, Chicago, IL 60618-3538; http://www.bloodshot.com