Sunday, July 31, 2005

Knitted Brows

After, what, 20 years - the Knitters are putting out a new album and are touring again. They play the Birchmere here in DC where Henry Rollins also has an upcoming gig. The hippy dinner theater joint is coming up in the world.

Here's some spiel from Chic-Trib:

"Someone pointed out to me the other day that this is our sophomore effort," said Doe, referring to the album. "It's pretty hilarious at this point in our careers to think that anything we could be involved in would have the word 'sophomore' attached to it."

On "The Modern Sounds of the Knitters," Doe once again countrifies a handful of X songs ("Skin Deep Town," "Burning House of Love," "In This House That I Call Home," "The New Call of the Wrecking Ball"). Also included are several traditional songs ("Give Me Flowers While I'm Living," "Little Margaret") and the Stanley Brothers' "Rank Stranger"; a gutsy version of "Born to Be Wild" is more a lesson in X than a transformation to country music.

The Knitters, like many of their compatriots in the Los Angeles music scene (Lucinda Williams, Rosie Flores, Dwight Yoakam), were weaned on the gritty music of America's roadhouses -- country, blues, soul, rockabilly -- which figured significantly into their songs. Nonetheless, for a bunch of punk rockers to embrace and play country music in 1985 was revolutionary.

"We simply loved the music," Doe said in a phone interview from San Francisco the day after the tour's opening night. "I think there are huge similarities between country music and punk rock. The rhythm is similar; the brutal honesty is similar; the fact that it's for and by the people is similar."

In '80s Los Angeles, the Knitters (the name is a pun on Pete Seeger's folk group, the Weavers) were not working in a vacuum, and Doe says X fans seemed to be "pretty hip to the whole idea." The movement known as cowpunk was under way with hard-charging, country-influenced bands such as Rank and File, Blood on the Saddle and Tex and the Horseheads. These young musicians, weaned on punk rock, became fans of country music, the Bakersfield variety, the stamping ground of artists such as Merle Haggard and Buck Owens.

For their part, Doe said he and Cervenka had been listening to a lot of Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. The Knitters allowed Doe to play acoustic guitar on "slow, sad songs."

"There was a time when old country music was just pervasive; you couldn't escape it, and you couldn't help but be influenced by it," said Doe. "In the early '80s, you could still find good old George Jones records in thrift stores. With their straightforward, truthful lyrics, those old records really hit home."


Post a Comment

<< Home