John Doe

Keeper

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In the liner notes to Keeper, John Doe's ninth solo album, he thanks producer Dave Way "and the players and singers, they made this happen." Doe is being a bit too modest, considering his always impressive gifts as a vocalist and songwriter, but just as 2009's Country Club was one of his finest solo efforts, in large part because of the strength of his musical partners the Sadies, the crew of musicians on Keeper is powerful enough to push Doe to the top of his game, and it does make a difference. Keeper opens with the one-two punch of "Don't Forget How Much I Love You," a country-flavored love song with a rock & roll heart, and "Never Enough," a rollicking slice of punk-informed roots rock that's snide and joyous at once, and it's been a long time since Doe has sounded like he's had this much fun on plastic. Many of the other cuts on Keeper take a more somber tone, but even on low-key numbers like "Little Tiger" and "Moonbeam," Doe connects the material with confidence and genuine passion, and "Lucky Penny" and "Cottage in the ‘Dale" display a guarded optimism he doesn't allow himself especially often in the studio. And with artists like Patty Griffin, Greg Leisz, Howe Gelb, Steve Berlin, Jill Sobule, and Don Was as part of the studio ensemble on Keeper, it's no wonder Doe is so pleased with their contributions. John Doe simply doesn't make bad records, but not all of them are as heartfelt and comfortable as Keeper, and the title is apt -- this captures a great singer and songwriter on a hot streak, and you'd have to go back to his 1990 solo debut to hear a John Doe album that's as eclectic, accomplished, and satisfying as this.

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