Grassroots 2006 review by Luminous Dash

JOHNNY DOWD – Live At Grassroots 2006 (Mother Jinx Records)

By

Kris Verdonck

Johnny Dowd, de Jack the Ripper van de americana dook in zijn kelder en vond de tapes terug van het Grassroots-festival waar hij in 2006 met een vierkoppige band optrad. Eerlijkheidshalve denken we niet dat de zon toen scheen op die middag. In Dowd-City sterven de goeden te vroeg, blijven de mirakels achterwege, klopt de dood aan op Kerstavond en vervoert Elvis’ Mystery Train een kist.

Als een dobberman uit de hel bijt hij ons in het been, om ons pas drie kwartier later los te laten. Het viertal is goed op dreef, met drum/baspedaalwizzard Willie B. (aka Brian Wilson), Michael Stark op keys en Kim Sherwood-Caso op backings. Muzikaal gaat het de richting uit van overstuurde country en uitgeklede bluespunk, geflipte James Brown-funk en dronken walsen.

Afsluiten doet Dowd met God Created Woman: “Meet me in the parking lot, up on level three. There’s something I must show you.” We zouden niet durven instappen bij deze nonkel Van Grauwel.

 – Original Article

Johnny Dowd, the Jack the Ripper of the americana dived into his basement and found the tapes of the Grassroots festival where he performed with a four-member band in 2006. To be honest, we don’t think the sun was shining that afternoon. In Dowd-City the good ones die prematurely, the miracles are omitted, death is knocked on Christmas Eve and Elvis’ Mystery Train carries a coffin.

Like a bobber man from hell, he bites us in the leg, only to let us go 45 minutes later. The foursome is doing well, with drum / bass pedal wizzard Willie B. (aka Brian Wilson), Michael Stark on keys and Kim Sherwood-Caso on backings. Musically it goes in the direction of upset country and stripped down blues punk, flipped James Brown funk and drunken waltzes.

Dowd closes with God Created Woman: “Meet me in the parking lot, up on level three. There is something I must show you. ” We would not dare to board at this uncle Van Grauwel.

– Translation by Google

Live @ The Falcon

“Imagine if Hank Williams had mutated into Captain Beefheart, acquiring a bunch of primitive electronic equipment along the way, and you’ll get some idea of where Johnny Dowd is at… Gloriously deviant.“ – The Independent (London)

 

“While most artists play it safe on stage and stick close to the studio versions, Dowd and his band love to turn things upside down and inside out. Warts and all is pretty much their modus operandi. He’s a music critics’ favourite, and a cult artist with a fervent and vocal fan base.” – Hans Werksman / werksman.blogspot.com

“Dowd has made a career of making music full of piercingly bleak, hard fought, gnarled dreamscapes that make David Lynch’s tales seem like those of a choir boy. But just when I thought I had him figured out, Dowd delivers a blues record so beautiful that I cannot stop playing it. It is also full of demons that live on a merry-go-round with feedback and distortion taking the places of the painted ponies going up and down. Paradoxically, it’s his most accessible music in quite a while, maybe ever.” – No Depression (US)

This is a man clearly in charge of his musical vision, and that vision includes a broad grasp of rock’s so-called rich tapestry. Dowd ekes out noir-ish psychedelic blues, takes old surf riffs and slows ’em down to a funeral procession trudge, and yelps his way through “trashabilly”.

Johnny Dowd is an American alternative country musician from Ithaca, New York. There’s a strong undercurrent of black humor and the absurd in his work.His song-style style comprises experimental, noisy breaks and strong gothic elements, lyrically and instrumentally.

Check out Johnny’s latest album, Family Picnic (2019)!

Opener: Singer-songwriter, George Spafford

New CD release and the 2006 Tour that inspired it

 

Johnny Dowd has dug up a rocking show from the past. Live at GrassRoots 2006, recorded in Trumansburg, NY in July 2006, catches him in full flight, with Michael Stark (keyboards, organ), Willie B (drums, bass pedals) and Kim Sherwood-Caso (vocals). He played quite a few songs that were unreleased at the time – the scary blues rocker Demons and Goats for instance would turn up on his Wake Up the Snakes album in 2010.

While most artists play it safe on stage and stick close to the studio versions, Dowd and his band love to turn things upside down and inside out. Warts and all is pretty much their modus operandi, but it works like a charm. Uncle Willie comes barreling down the tracks like a runaway train. The Good Die Young, a song that became a highlight on the Hellwood album Chainsaw Of Life is a slowed down lament that hits hard. Miracles Never Happen is dedicated to his mother, who would be surprised that her son is still kicking ass today, a music critics favourite, and a cult artist with a fervent and vocal fan base. Drunk is skewed and lopsided, almost falling apart, with Kim Sherwood-Caso as the one who keeps it together. Performing a song with reckless abandon is what Johnny Dowd does best, but he is smart enough to take a time out after such a demanding oexxcursion and let “his band within a band” Tzar (Willie B and Michael Stark) plus guest vocalist Eva Revesz do their electronic thing with Don’t Drink the Water – that must have confused the hardcore folkies in attendance. Closing the show with God Created Woman, a song that was already part of the shows of his first band Neon Baptist and a stand out track of his Pictures from Life’s Other Side album he bade the audience farewell, after putting on a show that delighted his fans, converted a few and generally confusing and/or irritating the rest.

Live at GrassRoots 2006 is released on Mother Jinx Records and is available thru his website (and the merch table at his shows).

Tracks:

  1. Poverty House
  2. Linoleum Floor
  3. Miracles Never Happen
  4. King of the Jews
  5. Uncle willie
  6. The Good Die Young
  7. Drunk
  8. Don’t Drink the Water
  9. Demons and Goats
  10. Ding Dong
  11. God Created Woman

 

As you can tell from Hans’ review, the band was burning pretty hot, as is usual after coming off tour. We wish we had a tape of this 2006 show:

The Sun 2006 review

Speaking of great albums, did you miss this? It was a very good year…

 Johnny Dowd

By Listen Up June 14, 2006
One of 2006’s most intriguing discs so far is Johnny Dowd’s Cruel Words, a combination of poetic lyrics and funky rhythms, with synths, organ, bass, and guitar. Even with the music, the performances — half spoken, half sung — owe more to the theater than to traditional singer-with-band-onstage shows.

Celebrating cynical existentialism, Dowd brings odd stories to life: a wheelchair-bound veteran who questions the price of loyalty; a cowboy who shoots off his “member” because it’s the root of all his troubles; the suicide of a man whose lipstick-scrawled message on a motel room mirror claims he’s the “King of the Jews” — he lay surrounded by women’s shoes, a Telecaster, and, on the nightstand, an empty notepad.Fort Worth native Dowd grew up in Pauls Valley, Okla., pretending to be James Brown (circa Live at the Apollo) before moving to Memphis, where he picked up his first guitar and discovered Hank Williams as Luke the Drifter. Mix in bits of free jazz and psychedelia, and you get an idea what Cruel Words sounds like.

The songs occasionally — and purposefully — jangle like shards of glass in a cardboard box. Dowd’s creaky, out-of-breath voice isn’t a lot better, but the sum of the album goes far out and almost touches the ragged edge where interesting things can happen to music and listeners.

Dowd wrote a dozen of the 14 songs here and interprets bandmate and drummer Brian Wilson’s “Wilder than the Wind ‘66” and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Dowd and his tight outfit turn the otherwise innocuous JBG into a vaguely ominous threat.

Cruel Words is an aural guided tour through a sideways world where nothing is pretty, it just is. The words and music work so well together that listeners can almost see it.

 – Original Article

 

Johnny Dowd: Cruel Words

Alan Brown   
“Mystery, oh mystery / Cowboy’s life is strange / Gets very existential when his brains are rearranged”, drawls Johnny Dowd to the accompaniment of vibrant ’60s retro organ and bombastic drums on the darkly comic opener “House of Pain”, about a philanderer who decides to take a gun to “that thing between his legs”. For the uninitiated listener, this opening gambit amounts to a baptism by fire into the nightmarish domain inhabited by Dowd and the array of desperate, murderous, and marginalized characters he has chronicled in song over the last eight years.

Ever since Dowd decided at the age of 50 to utilise the offices of the removals company he co-owns in Ithaca, New York, to record his self-released, stripped-down, country-blues-soaked-in-blood debut Wrong side of Memphis, he has rejoiced in portraying the seedy underbelly of contemporary small-town U.S.A. But even though the subject matter may have remained a constant over the years, his music has long ago wandered far from its initial raw blues path to incorporate free-flowing jazz and swamp psychedelia.

Cruel Words, Dowd’s sixth album and second for Bongo Beat Records following 2004’s Cemetery Shoes, is no exception with his penchant for country blues and retro keyboards serving as a foundation from which to build a wonderfully ragged fusion of otherwordly funeral funk (“Ding Dong”), hard rockin’ wig-out (“Cradle of Lies”), scuzzy electric-guitar-fuelled rap (“Anxiety”), and distorted penny-opera jazz (“Unwed Mother”) to accompany his profound spoken-word lyrics. It also comes as no surprise to find that the cowboy-turned-eunuch of the opening number is not the only disenchanted individual to appear in Dowd’s latest batch of excellent musical vignettes. There’s the disillusioned wheelchair-bound vet in the funky anti-war song “Praise God” who questions the sacrifice he made for a country that has no more need for his services. On “Final Encore”, Dowd, sounding like a burnt-out Nick Cave, paints a bleak picture of a suicidal musician’s final moments in a cheap motel.

Elsewhere, Jon Langford (who previously performed with Dowd on the latter’s self-penned song “Judgement Day” for the 2002 anti-death-penalty album The Executioner’s Last Songs) and Sally Timms of the Mekons join Dowd regulars Brian Wilson (former employee of Dowd’s moving company who plays drums and bass pedal), Mike Stark (keyboards), and longstanding back-up vocalist Kim Sherwood-Caso (who was sadly absent on Cemetery Shoes) to provide additional vocals on the country lament “Drunk”.

While you’d hardly expect this cacophony of woes to end on a happy note, Dowd wraps things up thrillingly with his longstanding live-set finale “Johnny B. Goode”, a hell-bound reinterpretation of the Chuck Berry classic. With Sherwood-Caso’s angelic backing vocals shadowed by a snarling, creepy Dowd, pounding keyboards, and distorted electric guitar that threatens to drive the song into freefall only to pull back from the abyss at the last moment, this provides a menacing yet exhilarating end to an enjoyably inventive and deliriously dark album.

 – Original Article

 

JDF would like to contribute a small collection of photos of the 2006 European tour, some by Mike Edmondson, some by Michael Stark and some by a photographer at a show ( if you identify yourself, we’ll identify you!):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Real Roots reviews Family Picnic

Johnny Dowd
Family Picnic

De in Fort Worth, Texas geboren Johnny Dowd is van 29 maart 1948. De Amerikaan debuteert in 1997 met Wrong Side Of Memphis. Family Picnic is het zeventiende (!) album van Dowd. Naast vijf live platen is er in 2006 Hellwood, de samenwerking met Jim White en Brian Wilson voor de langspeler Chainsaw Of Life. Voor Family Picnic schreef de Texaan veertien nummers.

Voor het schrijven van zijn nummers gebruikt Dowd vooral een ritmebox. Hij vindt een ritme en schrijft zijn meestentijds rijmende zinnen. Het zijn verhalen uit het familieleven. Onduidelijk is of het gezinsleven van Dowd deze anekdotes oplevert. In titelnummer ‘Family Picnic’ levert het de volgende observaties op.

Every year there’s a family picnic
And folks come from miles around
Mom buys fried chicken on the outskirts of town
Little sister makes a salad
Big sister waits fior a call
Brother John’s in the bathroomLord, he’s climbing the walls
How much emptyness can you swallow?
Would a sixpack get’s you through?
Would it take a quart of whiskey to drive away your blues?

Simpele zinnen, Vocaal wordt Dowd geholpen door zangeres Kim Sherwood-Caso, gitarist Michael Edmondson siert het nummer met functioneel spel. Dowd slaat akkoorden aan op zijn gitaar. Het klinkt eenvoudig, maar is veel meer dan simpel en gemakkelijk uit te voeren.

Johnny Dowd is een zanger zoals er weinig zijn. Muziek maken die simpel klinkt is een gave. Gaat de luisteraar meezingen met een van de veertien nummers, blijkt hoe lastig de tracks in elkaar zitten. Dowd kan als geen ander de melodielijnen van een ritmebox volgen en toch een volkomen eigen geluid laten horen. De frasering van de op leeftijd zijnde zanger is uniek. Daarbij worden de juiste muzikanten ingezet om de muziek naar een volgend, hoger niveau te tillen.

Voorganger Twinkle, Twinkle (2018) verloor de aandacht door een overdaad aan experimenteel gefröbel. Bij Family Picnic heeft Johnny Dowd de gulden middenweg weer gevonden. Tracks die alleen van zijn hand kunnen komen, muziek die uit de pas loopt en toch telkens binnen de bekende lijnen eindigt. Family Picnic is een mooie start van een hopelijk geweldig muzikaal 2019. (Mother Jinx Records)

– Original article

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Johnny Dowd is from March 29, 1948. The American debut in 1997 with Wrong Side Of Memphis. Family Picnic is the seventeenth (!) Album by Dowd. In addition to five live records, there is Hellwood in 2006, the collaboration with Jim White and Brian Wilson for the long player Chainsaw Of Life. The Texan wrote fourteen songs for Family Picnic.

Dowd mainly uses a rhythm box to write his songs. He finds a rhythm and writes his most commonly rhymed sentences. They are stories from family life. It is unclear whether the family life of Dowd yields these anecdotes. In the title number ‘Family Picnic’ it provides the following observations.

Every year there’s a family picnic
And folks come from miles around
Mom buys fried chicken on the outskirts of town
Little sister makes a salad
Big sister waits fior a call
Brother John’s in the bathroom
Lord, he’s climbing the walls
How much emptyness can you swallow?
Would a sixpack get’s you through?
Would it take a quart of whiskey to drive away your blues?

Simple phrases, vocally Dowd is helped by singer Kim Sherwood-Caso, guitarist Michael Edmondson adorns the song with functional play. Dowd makes chords on his guitar. It sounds simple, but is much more than simple and easy to implement.

Johnny Dowd is a singer as there are few. Making music that sounds simple is a gift. Will the listener sing along with one of the fourteen songs, shows how difficult the tracks are. Dowd is able to follow the melody lines of a rhythm box like no other and yet make a completely unique sound. The phrasing of the old singer is unique. In addition, the right musicians are used to take the music to the next higher level.

Pastor Twinkle, Twinkle (2018) lost attention due to an excess of experimental gefröbel. At Family Picnic, Johnny Dowd found the golden mean again. Tracks that can only come from his hand, music that is out of step and still ends within the familiar lines. Family Picnic is a great start to a hopefully great musical 2019. (Mother Jinx Records)

Editors Note:

Copies of Family Picnic will be available at a release party gig and collaborative art show opening March 1st at the Grayhaven in Ithaca.There’s going to be all kinds of Dowd art on the walls and tables, some snacks and drinks, a photo booth and, most importantly, all proceeds go to the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes.

Live @ Grassroots – In the Cabaret Sat. 9pm One Show Only

“Country-soul rejects no useful tool in its arsenal of dark expression – in the house of Johnny Dowd, drum machines and punk guitar tear the place apart, and story puts things back together, even if there are cracks left in the walls from all the ruckus. Find Johnny in the Cabaret Hall on Saturday at 9pm.”

 

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 9, 2017: Johnny Dowd performs at Hill Country Live in Washington, DC opening for Pere Ubu. (Photo by Richie Downs)

 

Grassroots interview 2015

 

UPDATE FROM JOHNNY’S SITE (www.johnnydowd.com):

The new record is coming along swimmingly. I guess if I were to put it in a genre, it would be Alt Country/Roots Rock/Americana, etc. They’re the kind of tunes I was writing 20 years ago. Mike Edmondson plays some great rock and roll guitar, and the icing on the cake is the return of Kim Sherwood Caso, singing better than ever. Still some work to do, but this may be a breakthrough album. Grammys, here I come. 

 

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