The Knitters, "Poor Little Critter On The Road"

The beautiful thing about The Knitters (and all the lovely cowpunk bands who would form in their


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Last Night: The Knitters at the Tractor Tavern


The Knitters, "Poor Little Critter On The Road"

The beautiful thing about The Knitters (and all the lovely cowpunk bands who would form in their wake) is that they combine two of my favorite things in the world: the soul of country music and the off-key, defiant punk rock delivery that I grew to love in my friends' dirty basements and the Reno VFW Hall. Plus, after playing together for more than twenty years, the whole band works just as well as you'd expect them to. Exene and John Doe have their harmonies pretty much down pat. And yeah, Exene may not hit every note dead on, but that's what makes The Knitters. She's not Emmylou Harris, she's a punk singing country songs, and she belts 'em out with at least as much feeling as any Nashville star and a sassy attitude befitting punk rock royalty like herself.

Openers Dead Rock West didn't end up showing were there, except that the weekday shows at the Tractor apparently start at 8 p.m. (instead of that being the door time, as was the case the last time I was there) so I missed them.  John Doe kicked off with two songs accompanied only by guitarist Dave Alvin: "Silver Wings" and "Good Imitation Of The Blues." After that, the rest of the band took the stage and launched directly into an hour and a half set of originals and covers from their past two records. Among them: "Poor Little Critter On The Road," "Give Me Flowers While I'm Living," "Poor Old Heartsick Me," "Dry River," "Try Anymore," "Walking Cane," "Baby Out Of Jail," and "The New World," a political song from The Knitters' first album which, John Doe mentioned, has a "slightly different meaning now." The band finished up that number by segueing into an abbreviated version of the Star-Spangled Banner. You know a presidential inauguration is a big deal when a punk can get up onstage and change out the freak flag for Old Glory for a little while.  

I think the standout song of the evening for me, though, was "Long Chain On," which is one of those haunting, almost Gothic country ballads that stick to your ribs, especially in the hands of John Doe, who's got an incredibly expressive face. They finished out with a raucous rendition of "Born To Be Wild," a fitting end for a show as well as an album (it's the final track on The Modern Sounds Of The Knitters). It was a great time. And I would encourage anyone who didn't come last night not to miss tonight's set. Thing is, I just read this Washington Post review from May of '07 that describes a set list very similar to last night's. Then again, the band's only got two albums to draw from. Here's hoping what Goldberg wrote in his preview of this show is true-- that there's a new album in the works. The band's set list depends on it.

 
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