The Knitters - John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Dave Alvin, Jonny Ray Bartel, and D.J. Bonebrake - have been rambling a tangled map of American musical highways since way back in the 20th century. Now, with their first album in 20 years, the revered American band is bringing their traditional sound to a new generation of listeners. The Modern Sound of the Knitters includes acoustic versions of X's 'In This House That I Call Home', 'Skin Deep Town', 'Burning House of Love' and 'I'll Go Down Swinging', Alvin's 'Dry River', and Doe's '(Why Don't We Even) Try Anymore'. The new album also includes 'The New Call of the Wreckin' Ball', a sequel to a song cut for previous album Poor Little Critters in the Road. Some of the material - Flatt & Scrugg's 'Give Me Flowers While I'm Living' and the Stanley Brothers' 'Rank Stranger' - dates back to the late '40s and early '50s, while the '60s are reflected in covers of Jimmy Driftwood's 'Long Chain On' and Porter Wagoner's 'I'll Go Down Swinging', as well as the surprising inclusion of Steppenwolf's 'Born to Be Wild'. Zoe/Rounder. 2005.
Give the Carter Family
a case of Budweiser and burning backbeat steeped in punk and roots rock and they might sound like the Knitters, a one-off (or so we thought), all-star outfit of old-time country attributions named in honor of fifties' folkies The Weavers. They're back, 20 years after the classic debut Poor Little Critter on the Road
, with another batch of traditional takes on country standards and acoustically countrified versions of rock songs. Led by John Doe (with his delightfully tangled harmonies), and including Exene Cervenka, drummer D.J. Bonebrake of the renowned Los Angeles band X, and ex-Blasters guitarist Dave Alvin, the band transitions effortlessly from Critter
to cover the Stanley Brothers ("Rank Stranger"), Porter Waggoner ("I'll Go Down Swinging") and Steppenwolf ("Born to Be Wild"), as well as revamp X favorites from the early ("In This House That I Call Home") and later ("Burning House of Love") days. A perfect link from Hank Williams through the Minutemen
to alt-country vogue, let's hope the Knitters don't wait another two decades for the trifecta. --Scott Holter