Knitters The Modern Sounds of the Knitters

Knitters The Modern Sounds of the Knitters
To call this a much-anticipated second album is an understatement verging on the ridiculous. It’s been 20 years since members of punk heroes X teamed with the Blasters’ Dave Alvin in their country side project, the Knitters. Their debut, Poor Little Critter on the Road, became such a cult classic that Bloodshot devoted a tribute album to it a few years back. Here they mix in traditional songs, rootsified versions of some X classics, and new originals, and play and sing them all with fire, skill and a sense of fun all too often missing from alt-country. X's signature vocal interplay between John Doe and Exene remains, though here it centres on harmonies rather than call and response. The gritty honesty of Doe's voice tempers Exene's occasional shrillness nicely, while the fluent and versatile guitar work of Dave Alvin is a constant pleasure. Highlights include the traditional "Give Me Flowers While I'm Living,” the spirited version of "I'll Go Down Swinging,” and a country-rock take on "Born To Be Wild” that does actually work. The new version of their classic "Burning House of Love” doesn't quite match the original, but does remind you of what a great song it is. Wonderful to have them back.

Ever think there would be a second Knitters album? Doe: No, it’s an absolute surprise. The reason we ended up making it was that every three or four few years we’d do a tour of the West Coast. Every time, we’d go "we really should record this.” Then when we did "Born To Be Wild,” and we went "this is a fuckin’ slam dunk, dude.” Finally, we put our money where our mouth is, did it, and found labels wanted to put it out. All we need now is a tribute to the second record, and we’ll be in the Guinness Book of World Records!

X and the Blasters were pioneers of the ’80s cowpunk scene. How would you compare that to the current alt-country scene? Back then was the first time that a rock audience was exposed to country music and could hear it wasn’t lame or stupid. Now, the whole genre is like a thing, and that’s great. My one criticism of alt-country is that it can get pretty dour and serious and pretty slow. Thank God we don’t take ourselves that seriously. There are equal amounts of serious singing and playing and whimsical fuckin’ off.

Is it still fun singing and playing with Exene, Dave Alvin and DJ Bonebrake after more than 25 years? Totally. The Knitters is like going to an arts or soccer camp. It’s kind of hard work, but you’re learning something real cool and doing it with friends you can goof off with. With both X [who still do shows] and the Knitters, if we didn’t play well, we’d stop. And if it was just old farts coming out to see us, we’d stop, but we get young people too.

(Zoë)