John Doe has no problem sharing the microphone. Across his nearing-30-year career, Doe has gone heavy on songs driven by two voices—his own and that of a woman. X thrived on the tangled harmonies of Doe and Exene Cervenka, and Juliana Hatfield, ex-Go Go Jane Wiedlin, Jill Sobule, Aimee Mann and Kathleen Edwards have all worked on recent Doe albums. That last trio appears on Doe's third album in three years for Yep Roc, A Year in the Wilderness. So what's the appeal of the combination?
"If you had the opportunity to hang out with Aimee Mann and Kathleen Edwards and Cindy Wasserman, wouldn't you?" offers Doe, punctuating things with an exaggerated "Come onnn!"
Fair enough, but doesn't he have to hear something in a singing partner? "I look at what kind of personality they have and how they would understand the lyrics of the song," he explains. "I just knew Aimee Mann would understand 'Unforgiven.' And Kathleen Edwards was perfect for 'The Golden State,' the song most like a Gram Parsons-Emmylou Harris song that I had this time."
Wasserman, who splits the lead vocals in her own band, Dead Rock West, is filling that female vocal slot on Doe's current tour. Dead Rock West will open and then serve as Doe's backing band (supplemented by multi-instrumentalist Nick Luca). In Dead Rock West, Wasserman does the two-voice thing with vocalist/guitarist Frank Lee Drennen, with ace support from Los Angeles vets Phil Parlapiano, David Carpenter and Bryan Head. "We're sort of like a combination of The Who or R.E.M. if they had a girl and a guy fronting them," says Drennen of the five-piece, adding with a laugh, "At least that's how I envision it."
Only one member of Dead Rock West won't be part of Doe's backing band: Drennen himself. "Apparently, John can handle guitars and vocals," Drennen says with another laugh. OK, so maybe Doe does have an occasional problem sharing the microphone.
John Doe and Dead Rock West play Hideaway BBQ Friday, Aug. 3, at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.