Exene Cervenka listened to aching pop gems on the little AM radio in her family’s 1959 Dodge as she grew up, soaking in the streams of romantic longing of Brenda Lee, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, and Peggy Lee as the rain hit the windows. That haunted, pine-freshener smelling, cigarette burns on the leatherette seats feel is all over the punk-celestial’s new full length, The Excitement of Maybe.
Neophytes might be wondering if the thrift-store crazy gal who co-fronted X with the bass player she met in poetry class (John Doe) deserves a little hootenanny on roots-deep Bloodshot. I mean, she has the pedigree, but can an art-pop raven pull off the chops for love songs and sweeter lamentations? You’re asking about it the wrong way, kiddo. On reeling opening track “Already In Love,” she reminds that she once herded up The Knitters, which was X gone rodeo even before they recorded and toured as a stripped down acoustic version of the seed band. (Track down their work on Slash Records at all costs.)
More than that, the dark pull of her vocals bring to mind bluegrass goddess Peggy Seeger, who made “Henry Lee” famous (that’s right, Nick Cave fans) and flabbergast me that I never caught the connection before. I could have heard Seeger in Cervenka when she was howling “The Have Nots” or “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts”, but all that glammy Billy Zoom guitar got me gobsmacked. “Already In Love” also somehow channels the OG cow-punk of Rank & File, the band once known as The Dils before they got fed up with the “noo waif” and took their Marxism to the ranch in the early 80s. (And yes that’s The Blasters’ Dave Alvin axe-grinding away like a charmer in a roadhouse at the beginning of a set behind fence to protect him from the blues-ridden cowgirls.)
The two sweet-creepy singles to bliss in on this release though are “Falling” and “I Wish It Would Stop Raining,” which beautifully combine indie-politan with country-swoon. No, don’t think because this is the great lady who fronted transgressive rock (Auntie Christ), old school alt-country (Original Sinners) and the aforementioned bands that this is going to be some sort of American Gothic slaughter. This time it’s all love, love, love and Bloodshot could use a sparkling little romance elpee in its catalogue. And so should you, in your own preserves o’platters.