Croatia’s KLFM reflects on Johnny Dowd

Johnny Dowd – KLFM

Johnny Dowd spada među one rijetke kantautore što unatoč eklektičnom pristupu ipak zadržavaju svoj nativni identitet, a rezultat sukoba tradicionalnog i modernističkog jest jedan od najoriginalnijih izričaja u suvremenoj glazbi!

Johnny Dowd je rođen 29. ožujka 1948. u Forth Worthu, Texas. Tako započinje praktički svaki tekst kojemu je cilj ukratko ili poduže proanalizirati život i stvaralaštvo dotične persone. No, navikli ste na pomaknutu strukturu ovih ‘najava’, i znate da autoru napisa nipošto nije cilj prepisivati sa wikipedije, niti iznositi općepoznate kronološke činjenice ionako dostupne u relevantnoj literaturi, tek uz napomenu kako su česte poredbe s Waitsom i Caveom apsurdne koliko i Dowdovi stihovi. Pokušajmo onda krenuti od geografske odrednice.

Već i ptice na grani znaju da je savezna država Texas zadnjih desetljeća iznjedrila ponajbolje američke kantautore; od Townesa Van Zandta, Willie Nelsona i Krisa Kristoffersona, preko Guy Clarka, Steve Earlea, Lyle Lovetta, Rodney Crowella, Jimmy Dale Gilmorea, Roberta Earla Keena, Billy Joe Shavera, pa do Scotta H. Birama i Justina Townesa Earlea – da spomenemo tek neke elemente te bogate lepeze.

No, ime Johnnyja Dowda se vrlo rijetko spominje u tom zemljopisnom kontekstu. Razlog tomu dijelom (no, uskoro ćete shvatiti – tek dijelom!) jest činjenica da je dotični još u djetinjstvu započeo onaj sveamerički proces mijenjanja lokacija i saveznih država – između ostalog, do pete je godine života već živio u Tennesseeju i Oklahomi. Neko je vrijeme boravio i u Kaliforniji, a u Memphis se vraća 1965., nakon razvoda roditelja, a te da bi se na koncu skrasio u gradiću Ithaca, New York.

Srećom, stara poslovica kaže da možeš potjerati stvorenje iz Texasa, ali nikad iz njega u potpunosti izbiti, istjerati taj čudnovati duh kojeg teksašani upiju rođenjem. Rekli bi pravnici, Iur Sole – pravo rodnog Sunca! Ipak, Johnny Dowd se po nečemu bitno razlikuje od imena navedenih na početku teksta.

Svi su oni, naime, stvorili prepoznatljiv stil temeljen na folku, countryju, bluesu ili pak kombinacijama navedenih utjecaja u varijabilnim omjerima. To se u određenom može reći i za Johnnyja Dowda, konkretno za njegovu ranu fazu, kada je djelovao unutar sastava Jokers s početka osamdesetih, te Neon Baptist ranih devedesetih. No, Wrong Side of Memphis (1997.), prvi uistinu samostalni album, odnosno rad koji je sada potpisan isključivo imenom Johnny Dowd donosi poprlilično drugačiju zvučnu sliku. Kompozicije izlaze iz očekivanih okvira često balansirajući na rubu prihvatljivosti, barem kada je o tradicionalnim okvirima riječ. Dowdova je nastupna ploča prožeta mračnom tematikom tipičnog southern gothica, i potpisnika ovih redaka podsjeća na Williama Faulknera u luđačkoj košulji. Može i ovako – zamislite da se radnja romana To Kill a Mockingbirdspisateljice Harper Lee odvija u paralelnom svemiru gdje američki Jug utjelovljuje nekoliko zadnjih krugova pakla, i gdje Scout u naletu ludila spaljuje Boo Radleyja u krušnoj peći… jeste li vizualizurali? Onda vjerojatno polako naslućujete ambijent ‘pogrešne strane Memphisa’. Nižu se balade o ubojstvima, griješnicima i prokletstvu: Welcome Jesus, John Deere Yeller, Idle Conversation, Ft. Worth; Texas, Ballad of Frank and Jessee James, Papa Oh Papa…, skladbe tek prividno odjevene u klasično folk/country ruho, jer sama struktura pjesama u simbiozi sa neortodoksnim izborom instrumenata – sintetizator, između ostalih – kreira sasvim neočekivan i isčašen doživljaj. Možda je opus kantautora Jim Whitea, koji djelovanje započinje otprilike u isto vrijeme (i s kojim će Dowd 2006. ostvariti suradnju na projektu Hellwood) najbliža poredba?

Ovo definitivno stoji, jer štoviše, Dowd će odigrati bitnu rolu u dokumentarcu Searching for a Wrong-Eyed Jesus, nadrealnoj priči o američkom Jugu koja je 2003. nastala kao plod suradnje scenarista Steve Haismana i redatelja Andrewa Douglasa, a po motivima Whiteova albuma Mysterious Tale of how I shouted Wrong-Eyed Jesus. Scena u brijačnici je doslovice antologijska, kao i Dowdova izvedba pjesme Murder, sirovog dvoakordnog bluesa kojeg Johnny izvodi pod sivim nebom na groblju automobila.

Ukoliko je Wrong Side of Memphis najavio Dowdovu samostalnu karijeru, predstavivši već poznatog autora u novom, prigušenijem svjetlu, album Pictures from the Life’s other Side ide korak dalje. Ovdje Johnny već okuplja prateći sastav, koji ga uz određene iznimke prati i dan danas (primjerice na trenutačnoj europskoj turneji koja, očekivano, zaobilazi morlačke krajeve), što mu omogućuje daljnja eksperimentiranja u zvuku. Iskreno, jeste li sposobni predočiti teksaškog kantautora čije se kompozicije mogu obilježiti jazz festivale, ili se pak provući kroz tipičnu funky, pa i hip-hop DJ listu, svejedno ostajući u nativnoj folk domeni?

Albumi koji se nižu čitav novi milenij (spomenimo tek Temporary Shelter, Pawnbroker’s Wife,Cemetry Shoes, No Regrets, Do the Gargon i Thats your Wife at the Back of my Horse), zaključno sa dva zasad posljednja koji se taman promoviraju u našem sjevernom susjedstvu (Execute American Folklore i Twinkle Twinkle) možda i ne donose nekakav primjetan napredak u odnosu na očekivani Dowdov zvuk, no to i nije nešto čemu bi trebalo prigovoriti, pošto je njegov opus u cijelosti već pomaknut iz songwriterskog  mainstreama. Istina, na pojedinim se ostvarenjima Johnny u određenoj mjeri vraća klasičnom izričaju (klasičnom u smislu kompatibilnosti s ljudima čija imena, ponavljam, bodu oči na početku ovog napisa), no to su rijetki trenuci opuštanja, pošto će se on već narednim albumom vratiti u vlastite vode spajanja naizgled nespojivog.

O Dowdu ne treba pisati litanije, pošto je njegov štih potrebno (i jedino moguće) doživjeti slušnim čulom. Stoga se, štovani slušatelji, udostojite preslušati mali, trosatni izbor iz opusa ovog vrhunskog i neobičnog kantautora, jer ćete samo tako biti u stanju donijeti osobni objektivni sud. A Dowdov je opus itekako vrijedan temeljitog preslušavanja, posebno ukoliko spadate u skupinu puritanaca koji s prezirom i gnušanjem gledaju na suživot tradicionalnog i eksperimentalnog. Jer, u tom bi slučaju Johnnyjeve skladbe mogle na Vas djelovati iscjeliteljski i prosvjetiteljski!

 – Vjeran Stojanac       15/02/2018

Dark Side of Texas
Johnny Dowd is one of the few cantoutists who despite their eclectic approach still retain their native identity, and the result of the conflict between traditional and modern is one of the most original expressions in contemporary music!

Johnny Dowd  was born March 29, 1948 in Forth Worth, Texas. Thus, practically every text starts with a goal that briefly or aims to proanalize the life and creations of the person concerned. However, you are accustomed to the shifting structure of these ‘announcements’, and you know that the author of the writing is by no means the aim of rewriting from the wikipedia, or to make known common chronological facts already available in the relevant literature, noting that frequent comparisons with Waits and Cave are absurd as far as Dowd’s verses. Let’s try to start from the geographical point of view.

Even the birds at the branch know that the federal state of Texas has emerged in the last decades of the best American royalties; from Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, through Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovetta, Rodney Crowell, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Robert Earle Keen, Billy Joe Shaver, and Scotty H. Biram and Justin Towness Earle some elements of that rich array.

But Johnny Dowd’s name is very rarely mentioned in that geographic context. The reason for that part (but you will soon understand – in part!) Is the fact that it is still in the childhood that the all-American process of changing locations and federal states has started – among other things, until the fifth year of his life he lived in Tennessee and Oklahoma. For some time he stayed in California, and in Memphis he returned in 1965 after the divorce of his parents, and eventually ended up in the town of Ithaca, New York.

Fortunately, the old proverb says that you can chase a creature out of Texas, but never completely break out of it, expel that strange spirit that Teddy bears in birth. Lawyers would say,  Iur Sole  – the right of the native Sun! However, Johnny Dowd is essentially different from the names mentioned at the beginning of the text.

All of them have created a recognizable style based on folk, country, blues or combinations of these influences in variable ratios. This can be said for Johnny Dow, specifically for his early phase, when he acted within the Jokers composition from the early 1980s, and the Neon Baptist in the early nineties. No,  Wrong Side of Memphis (1997), the first truly self-contained album, or the work that has just been signed by the name Johnny Dowd brings a somewhat different soundtrack. The compositions come from the expected frameworks, often balancing on the edge of eligibility, at least when it comes to traditional frameworks. Dowdova is an inaugural board interspersed with a dark theme typical of the southern gothic, and the signatories of these lines remind William of Faulkner in a hijack shirt. It may well be this – imagine the action of the novel  To Kill a Mockingbirdwriter Harper Lee takes place in a parallel universe where American South embodies a few last rounds of hell, and where Scout in a maddening madness burns Boo Radley in a baking oven … are you visualizing? Then you probably slowly feel the ambiance of ‘the wrong side of Memphis’. Ballads of Murders, Sinners, and Curse:  Welcome Jesse, John Deere Yeller, Idle Conversation, Ft. Worth; Texas, Ballad of Frank and Jessee James, Pope Oh Papa …, the compositions are apparently dressed in classical folk / country costumes, because the structure of the songs in symbiosis with the unorthodox selection of instruments – the synthesizer, among others – creates a completely unexpected and exaggerated experience. It may be the work of Jim White, who works roughly at the same time (and with which Dowd 2006 will co-operate on the project Hellwood ) the closest match?
This is definitely because, moreover, Dowd will play a major role in the documentary ”  Searching for a Wrong-Eyed Jesus”, a  surreal story about the South of America, which came in 2003 as the fruit of collaboration between scriptwriter Steve Haisman and director Andrewa Douglas, and White’s album  Mysterious Tale of how I shouted Wrong-Eyed Jesus . The scene in the barber shop is literally anthology, as well as Dowd’s performance of the Murder song  , the crude two-tone blues Johnny performs under the gray sky at the car cemetery.

If  Wrong Side of Memphis  announced Dowd’s stand-alone career, presenting a well-known author in a new, duller light, the album  from the Life’s other Side  goes a step further. Here, Johnny is already gathering a companion, which, with certain exceptions, is still tracked today (for example, on a current European tour that, by the way, forbids the Morlachian regions), allowing him to continue experimenting with sound. Frankly, are you able to present a Texan singer whose compositions can mark jazz festivals or go through a typical funky and hip-hop DJ list, still remaining in the native folk domain?

Albums that are down the whole new millennium (just mention  Temporary Shelter, Pawnbroker’s Wife, Cemetry Shoes, No Regrets, Do the Gargon and Thats Your Wife at the Back of My Horse ), ending with the two last ones that are just promising in our northern neighborhood ( Execute American Folklore  and  Twinkle Twinkle) may not even make some noticeable progress with respect to the expected Dowd sound, but that is not something to obey, since his opus has been entirely moved from songwriter mainstream. True, on certain achievements, Johnny returns to a certain extent classical expression (classic in terms of compatibility with people whose names, I repeat, point their eyes at the beginning of this article), but these are rare moments of relaxation, as he will return to his own next album the connection water seems unmatched.

There is no need to write a lithian about Dowda, since his or her mind is needed (and only possible) to hear the hearing. Therefore, listened to listeners, listen to the small, three-choice choices from the opus of this top-class and unusual songwriter, for you will only be able to bring a personal objective court. And Dowd’s opus is a worthwhile thorough listening, especially if you fall into a group of Puritans who, with disdain and disdain, look at the coexistence of traditional and experimental. Because, in that case, Johnny’s songs could have a healing and enlightening effect on you!

 – Translation by Google

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s