Kathleen Edwards and John Doe Dakota Tavern, Toronto ON November 3

Kathleen Edwards and John Doe Dakota Tavern, Toronto ON November 3
While not strictly a "secret” gig, this one flew rather under the radar, until local roots music fans realized what a rare opportunity this was. Here are two highly acclaimed singer-songwriters that regularly play venues five or ten times larger than this small basement honky-tonk.

Doe has reportedly been working on a record with the Sadies here, and he and Edwards have had a mutual appreciation thing going on for the last four years, something evident in their light-hearted banter. Those expecting two separate sets would have been surprised to find the pair sharing the stage half the time, sandwiched around three or four songs each done solo.

Some of the material performed together was a little ragged and under-rehearsed, but the charm of their harmony vocals won out. Given that much of Doe’s groundbreaking work in X and the Knitters revolved around his vocal interplay with Exene, it was fascinating to see the different duo identities he and Edwards donned.

On Gram Parsons' classic "We’ll Sweep Out The Ashes In The Morning,” there was a Gram and Emmylou feel, while a Doe/Exene vibe was apparent on a song the pair wrote together. For their encore rendition of Merle Haggard classic "Are The Good Times Really Over,” the pairing of George Jones and Tammy Wynette came to mind.

The two alternated on electric and acoustic guitars on their songs together, with occasional fiddle flourishes from Edwards. The highlight of Doe’s solo songs was his take on X classic "This Must Be The New World,” prefaced with timely comments about the U.S. election the next day. Edwards’ solo material worked a little more effectively here, with her rich vocals and fluent guitar work resonating nicely in the small room.

Songs from her current CD, Asking For Flowers ("Run,” "Oil Man’s War” and the title track) proved amenable to the pared down format. Biggest surprise of her song selection was a fun and spirited cover of the New York Dolls proto-punk classic "Pills,” hardly standard fare for an alt-country princess. That and the pair’s closing romp through "When Will I Be Loved” typified the good-natured and relaxed ambience of a fun evening.