X Singer Exene Cervenka Splits the Difference Between Punk and Country on “Somewhere Gone”

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Exene Cervenka

Somewhere Gone (Bloodshot)

Los Angeles punk stalwarts X are basically just a country band with a sheen of sonic sturm und drang thrown in for good measure. So it’s logical that the band’s lead singer, Exene Cervenka, something of a Loretta Lynn from hell, would eventually end up making Somewhere Gone, a collection of folksy Americana with a primarily acoustic back-up band.

The surprise is that Cervenka sings effortlessly on key throughout the proceedings. Apparently her trademark atonal wail with X is a purposeful stylistic affectation; Somewhere Gone is rife with sweet, spot-on harmonies. Cervenka’s voice here recalls Maybelle Carter, Neko Case, or even Emmylou Harris.

Lyrically, Cervenka is pondering existential questions, as usual. Her anger has been supplanted by a world-weary sense of acceptance and an occasional flash of gentle humor. The album isn’t all sweetness and light, though. Sharing a worldview with the late Flannery O’Connor, Cervenka rarely delivers a happy ending. But Somewhere Gone is a warmly captivating addendum to the X canon that casts the singer in a slightly brighter light.

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