JIM CATALANO, Correspondent
For the past 20 years, Johnny Dowd has been honing a unique style of music that draws from blues, country, folk, rock and gospel influences to create a backdrop for his distinctive lyrics delivered in his one-of-kind vocal style – a drawling mix of singing, talking and testifying.
Saturday, Dowd will unveil his latest album, the 14-song “Execute American Folklore,” at CD release show at the Rongovian Embassy in Trumansburg. The Sex Robots, which includes Anna Coogan and Michael Edmondson on guitars and vocals, will accompany Dowd at the show.
Dowd recorded all of the instruments for the next album by himself at his studio in the office of Zolar Trucking, the moving company he has co-owned with Dave Hinkle since the mid-1970s
“There are a lot of drum machines, but it still sounds live, because I tracked all the instruments live,” Dowd explained. “I wouldn’t say there’s a lyrical theme to the album, but it’s lot more coherent musically from song to song. Most of them kick off with these hip-hop drum beats, so that holds it all together.”
Local engineer Matthew Saccuccimorano once again played a key role on the album, adding a variety of sounds in the mixing and mastering process.
“Matt has been instrumental in the last three records as far as crafting a coherent sound for each record,” Dowd said. “It’s been a real collaborative process. I did what I do, and he did what he does. I might make a change or two on his mix, but it’s very minimal.” Coogan also contributed vocals to a few songs, including the lead lines on “Brains-a-Flame.”
The album title can be taken in two ways, depending on how you define “execute” – something Dowd was perfectly aware of.
“The title came out of this bad review I got in this Dutch magazine,” he explained. “In the weird translation, it came out as at one point as ‘it’s almost like he’s trying to execute American folklore.’ When I saw that, I though it was a great phrase for an album. So I had the title before I wrote any songs, but I thought it was exactly what I was trying to do on the record.”
To support the new album, Dowd and his partner Kat Dalton launched an indiegogo campaign that raised more than $17,000. Supporters were able to procure a variety of perks such as album artwork, Dowd’s much-used drum machine, and Zolar Trucking t-shirts.
“We had no idea going into it what would happen, so I was really gratified,” Dowd said. “It definitely will keep me going as a musician for another year at least.”
Dowd, 68, was something of a late starter in his music career; indeed, he was in his late 40s when his breakthrough solo album “Wrong Side of Memphis” came out in 1997. The initial burst of critical acclaim, especially in Europe, has allowed him to keep going for the ensuing two decades, which has seen the release of more than a dozen albums and a few tours of Europe and the United States.
“That’s what helped to keep me fresh,” he said. “I’ve done all my developing in public. If you start at 15, you develop and get a thing going, and that’s your thing for the next 20 years. I was better known at the very beginning – at day one – than I am now. That (acclaim) was just something that happened, but it gave me a thing I’ve been able to maintain. It didn’t end up growing bigger and bigger, but it still gave me a basic thing that a lot of people don’t ever get.”
Saturday’s show, which is Dowd’s last before taking the Sex Robots on a three-week tour of Europe, also will serve as a release for the new two-CD “Neon Baptist Live,” a compilation of songs his former band recorded at are shows between 1990 and 1992. Find out more at http://www.johnnydowd.com.
Opening Saturday’s show is Park Doing, who also will be accompanying Dowd on much of his upcoming European tour. The longtime frontman of the Atomic Forces and Woody Guthrie Meets The Sun has developed a new solo act that includes lots of live looping on guitar and vocals as well as the occasional sampled sound. Visit his new website at http://www.parkdoing.org.
If You Go
→Who: Johnny Dowd and the Sex Robots, with Park Doing opening
→What: CD release show for “Explode American Folklore”
→When: 9:30 p.m. Saturday
→Where: Rongovian Embassy, 1 W. Main St., Trumansburg
→Tickets: Available at the door