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John Wesley Harding preview

| April 8, 2009

John Wesley Harding
Schubas, Chicago
Friday, April 10, 2009


What’s John Wesley Harding doing by returning to his stage name? After a fairly successful foray into literature under his birth name, Wesley Stace, he thinks he can just waltz back into music like we wouldn’t notice? Well, we do. Stace.

Harding/Stace’s lyrics have always been as interesting a read as his music has been to hear, so maybe we’ll welcome him back. Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead (Popover Corps) not only finds him back in rock mode, but backed by The Minus Five. The presence of Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck doesn’t turn Changed into an R.E.M. exercise, however, and Harding’s sneer (“My Favorite Angel,” “The End”) reminds you that those Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, and Billy Bragg comparisons still hold up. Harding still has one foot out the door, though: The album title is a reference to a 1955 Barbara Comyns book.

Friday’s show is billed as “Wes & Eugene’s Cabinet Of Wonders,” a variety show featuring Harding, comedian Eugene Mirman (“Flight Of The Conchords”), and a “cast of thousands” that has borrowed The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy, Tanya Donnelly, Jill Sobule, and more along the way.

It is also a separate, earlier performance than Damien Jurado at 10:30 p.m.

Steve Forstneger

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Category: Stage Buzz, Weekly

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  1. fredG says:

    Ha! is there anything worse than a begrudging critic? When did JWH ever *leave* his stage name? Only in so far as it enabled you to make a nice story, I guess. He’s been playing shows throughout.

  2. IE says:

    fredG is correct in that JWH has continued touring under his pseudonym, however Mr. Forstneger was playfully (not begrudginly) referring to the fact two books were released under his birth name. This five-year period was uninterrupted by the release of any new artistic works as John Wesley Harding until the new album. For another example, Bob Dylan did not write ‘Tarantula’ as Robert Zimmerman. And if he had, Forstneger would have pantsed him.

    From the ‘Who Was Changed’ press release: ‘After a brief hiatus spent authoring the internationally best-selling novel Misfortune (nominated for the Guardian First Book Award and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize) and by George (named a 2007 New York Public Library “Book to Remember”) under his given name, Wesley Stace, renowned singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding, hailed by Rolling Stone as, “a literate and ironic neo-folkie with enough bile to win over a younger, hipper audience not attuned to folk music,” returns…’

  3. fredG says:

    Oh, I knew it was playful. Sorry if it seemed like I didn’t. But I’d like to respectfully add that Harding did release a number of new artistic works in this period, whatever his press release says. For example, one full album, The Love Hall Tryst’s “Songs of Misfortune” (the songs from his book, sung by Harding, Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor etc) which was one of Amazon’s Top Ten Folk Records of the Year. Not to mention a killah version of the British national anthem on the “Song of America” collection, and so on. That’s what you get for duplicating press releases rather than looking up the facts. But, hey, I’m a big fan. I know this stuff!