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John Wesley Harding
John Wesley Harding
The Knitting Factory, Hollywood, CA
March 2, 2001
John Wesley Harding stole his stage name from a classic Bob Dylan album, but his gift for witty songwriting, and equally witty performing, is solidly an innate trait. These skills were on sparkling display in this small Hollywood club performance.
The sets highlight came towards the end of Hardings brief performance when he sang "Goth Girl" from the new "Confessions of St. Ace" album. Its an unlikely love ode to a black-clad and depressive female Gothic music fan. Harding may have cynicism to spare, but he never lets this skepticism prevent him from seeing the indescribable joy of living. With his words of advice to this girl, he ponders why she cant see the sunshine as he simultaneously offers to pour a little of his own light into her self-darkened world. In a music world of lyrical reruns, this is one unique idea for a love song, and it works primarily because of its utter originality.
Harding can certainly be a cheeky bugger, but beneath that quick-witted exterior there also lies a sensitive singer-songwriter. This side of his personality was displayed on the warm "Our Lady of the Highways," which bestows a prayer for traveling mercies upon a lover many miles away. Its a song infused with gentle loving care.
He closed this short, yet exhilarating set with the wiseacre "Burn," which points out the temporal nature of so many seemingly grand human endeavors. But even while he is making these valid points, Harding has the good fun to name-drop the disco standard "Disco Inferno" along the way, revealing how easily he mixes pop culture with his social politics.
Harding is like a wild hair standing out from the perfectly groomed head of todays singer/songwriter world. Thank goodness there is somebody who is never afraid to consistently let his hair down for a little good-natured and intelligent fun.Dan MacIntosh