Adopting the guise of roots revisionist, musical journeyman, and trad troubadour, John Doe has taken an unexpected tangent since parting ways with X, the apocalyptic punk group he helmed in the Eighties. And with every twist of his trajectory and each succeeding album, Doe's reputation has ratcheted up accordingly. So although A Year in the Wilderness doesn't see Doe blazing any new musical trails, it does allow him to consolidate his stance by referencing several earlier templates. The sepia-tinged sentiment of "A Little More Time" and "The Meanest Man in the World" bring to mind the rambling folk strum of the Knitters, while the brash "There's a Hole" recalls the relentless assault of X. On the other hand, "Hotel Ghost" and "Lean Out Yr Window" settle for a basic rock delivery that's somewhat unspectacular. Fortunately Doe mines other precedents as well, referencing Blonde on Blonde-era Dylan with the irascible blues of "Big Moon." He ponders romantic options on "The Golden State," a stunning duet with Kathleen Edwards ("You are the hole in my head/I am the pain in your neck"). Backed by an A list of collaborators (Edwards, Dave Alvin, Jill Sobule, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, Aimee Mann, and others), Doe makes it evident that A Year in the Wilderness was time well spent.
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