John Doe's Forever Hasn't Happened Yet is a totally solid record, a very grown-up album with the sort of songs you only get from people who have confronted (not conquered — they can never be conquered) their demons and lived to spin some yarns.
On the album's most X-like track, "Hwy. 5," Doe duets with alt-country darling Neko Case, singing confidently but gently about late-night getaways, yet again tapping the rebel well to cast himself as the lonely wanderer, the outsider who shall never be tamed. But, if anything, Doe does sound tamed on Forever, albeit — here's the important distinction — tamed on his own terms. He sounds comfortable with an acoustic in his hands instead of a phallic Stratocaster, and pleased to be backed by a bunch of not-ashamed-to-be-professional musicians. Yet as far as this record takes Doe from his X legacy, remnants remain, especially in the number of songs that feature male-female duets. Aside the Case cut, there are two with Cindy Lee Berryhill ("Your Parade," "Repeat Performance"), and there's one with Kristin Hersh ("Ready") that sounds just like his old band.
Joined on most of the album by Grant-Lee Phillips and ex-Blasters dude/latter-day X-man Dave Alvin, this is pretty much straight-on country music with roughened edges and prickly centers. Years ago Doe recognized that he no longer needed to filter his country love through punk's fractured prism, and this record furthers that realization. After all, country was born punk, and forever shall she be.