Live @ The Running Horse (Americana.uk interview)

Johnny Dowd with support by John Marriott

JOHNNY DOWD BRINGS “FAMILY PICNIC” to Running Horse.
Ticket : £12 (Door £15)

Thirty years on from his remarkable, indescribably dark and damn right startling Americana debut Wrong Side Of Memphis, legend Johnny Dowd returns to the roots rock arena with Family Picnic, his new album

Over the last thirty years, Dowd has been releasing records that defy trends, a unique catalogue of work that stands head and shoulders above many of his lauded contemporaries. Now in his seventieth year on God’s good earth, Dowd has lost none of the vigour, enthusiasm, and attitude that has seen him forge his position as one of America’s most inquisitive musical minds, a musical explorer who has charted expeditions to genre-defying destinations that, at their heart, question, challenge, and dissect in their own way notions of the American Dream.

Family Picnic is the first time Dowd has really looked backwards in all that time, instead of plunging forward into a sonic unknown with the playfulness of a child.

As Dowd says himself: “I had to dig pretty deep for this one.
Not sure how many more tunes I have in me. Tick Tock!
This record took an unexpected turn to the past – my past. It’s kind of like Wrong Side of Memphis 30 years down the road. Surprisingly little has changed for me (emotionally, that is). I’m still drawn to the same themes — unrequited love, murder, general foolishness. Waltzes and shuffles and boom chuck beats abound. Ice cream chord changes. What’s not to like? An Americana classic, if I do say so myself.”

 

Van Life – Johnny Dowd

Posted on

Ithaca NY’s Johnny Dowd has been patrolling the dark, uneasy, unclassified byways and B-roads of the American heartlands for over two decades. A blistering, uncompromising guitar slinger and songwriter, Dowd is set to release his new album ‘Family Picnic’ this month, an ‘americana’ gem that returns to the topics and themes that inspired his legendary debut, ‘Wrong Side Of Memphis‘ and once again underlines Dowd as one of America’s true musical explorers. Americana-UK catches up with him as he prepares to embark on another European tour and asks him about the music that accompanies any such road trip.

So Johnny, how’s life on the road for you and what’s in that glovebox?

There comes a time on every tour when the next drive is too far, your emotional tank is nearly empty, and you can think of nothing but your mortality. At that point, you pull out ZZ Top’s ‘Greatest Hits,’ and you are again ready to conquer the world.

After a gig I want to hear something as far away from the music I played as possible. Sun Ra fits the bill. Any Sun Ra album. It doesn’t matter. He is the tallest giant in a universe of giants.

Today is an easy drive. You feel like you are not a day over 60. In other words, all is groovy. It’s time for Grant Green’s ‘Ain’t it Funky Now.’ Funky and sophisticated.

One of the first albums I bought was James Brown, Live at the Apollo. The very first album I bought was by Percy Faith. I don’t know what that was about. I do love a string section. So many great James Brown albums, but I guess James Brown Live at Paris Olympia 1971 has got to be high on the list. Speaking of high, I don’t know what the band was on, but some of those tempos are ridiculous.

This is another album that’s good after a greasy English breakfast. Incredible playing, uber funky, socially interesting. Of course I’m talking about ‘Headhunters,’ Herbie Hancock. Anything you can do, he can do better.

It’s that boring time after sound check and dinner. You really have nothing left to say to your band mates, let alone strangers. I might go to the van for some alone time and listen to Mary Wells, ‘All the Best.’ This album is like a time machine for me. I can usually only listen to a couple of songs before I start getting too emotional. Then it’s time for a brewski.

Any time is a perfect time to play this record. You could listen to it before your greasy English breakfast, just to get your mind and belly in alignment. ‘Paid in Full,’ Eric B. and Rakim. (Have I mentioned Betty Davis, the woman who put the funk in Miles?) ( Yes, MANY times…. ed.)

Late night. Trying to find the hotel. Lost. Twenty minute drive turns into an hour-and-a-half. No problem. ‘The Very Best of ‘ Johnny Guitar Watson (Rhino Records) will keep you focussed, relaxed, and alert. I just love his guitar playing.

You have a day off. You would prefer to stay in your motel room and watch tv. But your band mates want to drive somewhere to see ancient ruins. What can you do? Dial up some Sonny Sharrock, ‘Ask the Ages.’ This album affects me the way The Dark Side of the Moon affects hippies.

Sometimes, hopefully only once per tour, you are lying in bed in your motel room, it’s 3 AM, and sleep is impossible. You are engulfed in an ocean of loneliness and regret, and there is only one album that really captures that feeling: ‘Only the Lonely,’ Frank Sinatra. But if it’s the last day of the tour, and you are headed to the airport, then the only album to play is his ‘Songs for Swinging Lovers.’ Boundless swinging optimism. So that is touring. Hours of great music in the van. Followed by a gig, motel, breakfast. Repeat.

Live @ The Dolphin (Family Picnic review by Rocking Magpie)

In late 2016 we were delighted to welcome the King Of Junkyard Americana, Johnny Dowd, to Bovey Tracey. A truly memorable night ensued and there are some great photos in the portfolio area.

We are very happy to announce that Johnny will be back with us in Bovey Tracey in April 2019 for another brilliant night. Don’t miss it!

See Johnny’s artist page for more information, photos and links.

Don’t miss the fabulous Johnny Dowd on tour from the USA this Saturday at the Dolphin, Bovey Tracey. Tickets from: www.southdevonmusic.co.uk.

 

Johnny Dowd FAMILY PICNIC

Johnny Dowd
Family Picnic
Mother Jinx Records

A Man Out Of Step Takes a Massive Leap Into The Alt. Past.

Johnny Dowd? It’s not fair to say that you either ‘love him’ or ‘hate him’ as it’s more, ‘you get him’ or ‘you don’t’. Mrs. Magpie gave me ‘that look’ last Saturday night when I played this on the stereo; which puts her in the latter camp; me…… bring it on kidda!
Dowd is now 70 and been recording albums for just 30 of those years; but those albums have helped change what we now call Americana Music for the better; as he has probably been an influence with anyone who put’s an Alt. in front of Country or possibly even Blues.
I will try to use the word ‘weird’ once; and keep the comparisons to a bare minimum; but right from the get go; opening track, the weirdly Jazzy/Blues instrumental Hoodoo sounds like something Zappa or Beefheart dreamt of creating put sadly failed, leaving it for Johnny Dowd set the new benchmark for Avant Garde Rock Music.
Over the years I’ve received quite a few albums by artistes trying to make music this interesting and fascinating; but all save a couple of songs have failed miserably; yet even on this Dowd’s 18th album it’s chock-a-block full of songs that will spin your head; but bring you straight back for more, more, more.
There’s so much more to Vicksburg than just being a history lesson; it could be poetry set to an Acid Jazz beat; or is that Alt. Country with a beat box? Who knows? Who cares?
Dowd uses Bass-lines so dynamic on the sparkling title track Family Picnic and Back End of Spring they will more than likely to get pinched by with-it Hippity-Hoppity stars; yet on the latter Dowd might even be getting his own Hip-Hop on anyways!
While there are surprises around every corner; I was stunned to hear Dowd Go Dub on Let’s Have a Party; or at least the backing track has come straight out of Orange Street but Dowd’s vocals are straight up East Coast Country…… play it LOUD and play it often.
With so much going on in his songs, it’s easy to forget what a great songwriter Johnny Dowd has always been; his odes to Conway Twitty and Thomas Dorsey have to be heard to be believed; yet somehow I think both men would raise an eyebrow were they to ever hear these two ‘love songs’.
Obviously with an album so left-field and eclectic makes finding a Favourite after only a couple of plays nigh on impossible; but if forced I will have to spin a coin between Stuttering Wind, as if it had been around in the early 80’s I would have danced my ass off to this on a Friday night at Barmston Club; and the other is the nearest to a Country song as I’ve heard from Mr Dowd, Four Gray Walls…….. but don’t expect an invite to the Opry any time soon!
If I had a record store I don’t know where I would slot this album in today; as it’s not easy to pigeon hole in 2019 where the public need descriptions like leading a horse to water; but let’s go for Alt. Eclectic or Avant Garde Americana……. or just Damn good and intelligent Rock Music?

 – Original article

 

Live @ Foxlowe Art Centre (Daily Express reviews Family Picnic)

Thirty years on from his remarkable, indescribably dark and damn right startling Americana debut Wrong Side Of Memphis, Ithaca, NY, legend Johnny Dowd returns to the roots rock arena with Family Picnic, his new album set for release on March 1st through Mother Jinx Records.
Over the last thirty years, Dowd has been releasing records that defy trends, a unique catalogue of work that stands head and shoulders above many of his lauded contemporaries. Now in his seventieth year on God’s good earth, Dowd has lost none of the vigour, enthusiasm, and attitude that has seen him forge his position as one of America’s most inquisitive musical minds, a musical explorer who has charted expeditions to genre-defying destinations that, at their heart, question, challenge, and dissect in their own way notions of the American Dream. Family Picnic — once again featuring long-time cohorts Michael Edmondson and Kim Sherwood-Caso — is the first time Dowd has really looked backwards in all that time, instead of plunging forward into a sonic unknown with the playfulness of a child.

As Dowd says himself:
“I had to dig pretty deep for this one. Not sure how many more tunes I have in me. Tick tock. This record took an unexpected turn to the past — my past. It’s kind of like Wrong Side of Memphis 30 years down the road. Surprisingly little has changed for me (emotionally, that is). I’m still drawn to the same themes — unrequited love, murder, general foolishness. Waltzes and shuffles and boom chuck beats abound. Ice cream chord changes. Plus Kim Sherwood-Caso and Mike Edmondson. What’s not to like? An Americana classic, if I do say so myself.”

Johnny Dowd has released a number of critically acclaimed albums over the last thirty years and featured on all manner of compilations. His songs featured heavily in the cult musical documentary “Searching for the Wrong-eyed Jesus,” and Dowd has worked alongside artists such as Jackie Leven, The Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Jim White, and the Mekons, to name a few.

Family Picnic will be released on Mother Jinx Records on March 1, 2019. It will be available digitally worldwide, and the CD will be available at http://www.johnnydowd.com and on the European tour which begins April 4.

Support from Park Doing.

Tickets £12.00 in advance.

Doors 7.30pm.

Live @ the Thunderbolt (Family Picnic review by enola.be)

 

 TICKETS

Johnny Dowd – Family Picnic

Guy Peters – photos: Kat Dalton – March 27, 2019

“I sing songs of lust and depravity / That’s the only kind of songs that come out of me / I apologize but I can’t stop / The devil’s gonna run me until the day that I drop”. Je kan Johnny Dowd van allerhande zondes verdenken, maar een gebrek aan zelfkennis is er geen van. En als Twinkle Twinkle (2018) zo ver doorgedreven was in z’n idiosyncratische waanzin dat het aanvoelde als een eindpunt, dan is Family Picnic een voorzichtige terugkeer naar iets conventioneler terrein, al is het dan met de bedenking dat ‘doorsnee’ altijd buiten bereik zal blijven. En dat is maar goed ook.

Bovenstaande verzen komen trouwens uit “Thomas Dorsey”, een song uit Chainsaw Of Life, dat Dowd in een vorig decennium uitbracht met Jim White. Een ode aan de grote gangmaker van de gospelmuziek, en tegelijkertijd een knipoog naar zijn eigen verdorvenheid, of toch die van zijn songs. Het is Dowd ten voeten uit: observator en participant in één, personage in zijn eigen songs, en het beeld dat hij deze keer ophangt is ook nu regelmatig eentje van gebroken illusies en totale afwezigheid van een beschaafd vernislaagje. De titeltrack start dan wel met een idyllisch beeld dat intussen deel is gaan uitmaken van de Amerikaanse psyche, de perfecte familie, maar al snel drukt Dowd je met de neus op de feiten: “How much emptiness can you swallow”?

Wat Dowd onderscheidt van andere onheilsprofeten is natuurlijk dat hij die boodschap niet brengt met een doemerig serieux of duffe ironie, maar met zelfspot, venijnig inzicht en een zwak voor absurditeiten. Dowd is een verwant van de kermisklanten, van de marginale outsiders die je ineens overrompelen met een barrage aan historische weetjes, met figuranten die weggelopen lijken uit de gemene verhalen van Jim Thompson. Hier slaan ze aan het walsen (“The Man Of Your Dreams”, “Four Gray Walls”), jonglerend met hun zonden en een zekere gelatenheid (“Im not the man of your dreams / That’s obvious to all”). Ze weten hoe erg het gesteld is.

Dowd neemt opnieuw het merendeel van het werk voor z’n rekening, maar krijgt ondersteuning van oude bekenden Mike Edmondson (decennia geleden al een vaste sparringpartner) op gitaar en xylorimba en de al even bekende Kim Sherwood-Caso op backing vocals. Er duiken nog altijd brommende en zeurende toetsen op, net als plastieken beats, waardoor het hier en daar lijkt alsof Dowd nog altijd mikt op een vanuit de roots afgevuurde hiphop (de titeltrack, “Shameless”, “Let’s Have A Party”), maar de effecten zijn een graad of twee minder vervreemdend dan op het drieluik That’s Your Wife On The Back Of My HorseExecute American Folklore en Twinkle Twinkle. Misschien was die hint al te vinden in het artwork, met de houtgravure van Mike Massingham.

In onze recensie van een vorige plaat beweerden we nog dat je een figuur als Dowd nodig hebt om een genre fris te kunnen houden, en dat geldt net zo goed voor Family Picnic. Ondanks de gekte en de waanzin, maken deze songs vooral duidelijk dat Dowd als geen ander weet wat songs doet tikken, wat de essentie van een goede song is, en hoe hij die ondanks al die ingrepen toch overeind houdt of nonchalant in de lucht houdt met die brede grijns. Korte instrumental “Hoodoo” klinkt alsof werk van Freddie King en Link Wray door een Fisher Price-mangel gehaald wordt, maar is wel rete-aanstekelijk. Hetzelfde geldt voor de breed uitgesmeerde blues van “Vicksburg”, dat een hoofdstuk uit de Amerikaanse Burgeroorlog belicht, de met kitscherige synths opgebouwde “Walking The Floor” en “Little Jimmy”, of de verrassend gave ballade “Dream On” met z’n mooie slaperigheid. Deze man beheerst z’n kunst.

De nieuwsgierige passanten die een aantal albums geleden afhaakten ga je met Family Picnic niet terugwinnen, daarvoor is Dowds muziek te grillig en te eigenzinnig, maar doordat de songs zo verdomd goed in elkaar zitten (na twee beluisteringen klinkt het gros als bewerkingen van langvergeten klassiekers uit een onbestemd verleden) en elkaar aan zo’n hoog tempo opvolgen (veertien stuks in 37 minuten) is dit misschien wel ’s mans meest toegankelijke plaat van het voorbije decennium. “I wanna be a star” verzucht hij helemaal aan het einde van “Conway Twitty”. Te nemen met een korrel zout, maar tegelijk zou je ’t hem gunnen, al is het maar omdat zijn oeuvre door die combinatie van meedogenloze eerlijkheid, spitsvondigheid en consistente krankzinnigheid zoveel te vertellen heeft over het doorgeslagen Zottenfeest dat menselijke interactie zo vaak is. De dwaas van het gezelschap heeft wel vaker het laatste woord.

Johnny Dowd speelt op 19 april in Het Ijle Land (Gent). Meer (buitenlandse) date op de website. Niet te missen.

   – Original article

“I sing songs of lust and depravity / That’s the only child or songs that come out of me / I apologize but I can’t stop / The devil’s gonna run me until the day I drop”. You can suspect Johnny Dowd of all kinds of sins, but a lack of self-knowledge is none of them. And if Twinkle Twinkle (2018) had gone so far in its idiosyncratic madness that it felt like an endpoint, then Family Picnic is a cautious return to something more conventional terrain, even though the ‘average’ is always out of reach will stay. And that’s a good thing too.

alt

The above verses are from “Thomas Dorsey”, a song from Chainsaw Of Life , released by Dowd in a previous decade with Jim White. An ode to the great pacemaker of gospel music, and at the same time a nod to his own depravity, or that of his songs. It is full of Dowd: observer and participant in one, character in his own songs, and the image he hangs this time is now also regularly one of broken illusions and total absence of a civilized layer of varnish. The title track does start with an idyllic image that has meanwhile become part of the American psyche , the perfect family, but soon Dowd presses you on the facts: “How much emptiness can you swallow”?

What distinguishes Dowd from other prophets is of course that he does not bring that message with a doomed, serious or stupid irony, but with self-mockery, vicious insight and a weakness for absurdities. Dowd is a relative of the fairground customers, of the marginal outsiders who suddenly surprise you with a barrage of historical tidbits, with extras who seem to run away from the nasty stories of Jim Thompson. Here they are waltzing (“The Man Of Your Dreams”, “Four Gray Walls”), juggling their sins and a certain resignation ( “Im not the man of your dreams / That’s obvious to all” ). They know how bad things are.

Dowd once again takes care of most of the work, but receives support from old acquaintances Mike Edmondson (a regular sparring partner decades ago) on guitar and xylorimba and the equally famous Kim Sherwood-Caso on backing vocals. Humming and whining keys are still popping up, just like plastic beats, making it seem like here and there Dowd is still aiming for a hip hop fired from the roots (the title track, “Shameless”, “Let’s Have A Party”), but the effects are a degree or two less alienating than in the triptych That’s Your Wife On The Back Of My HorseExecute American Folklore and Twinkle Twinkle. Maybe that hint could already be found in the artwork, with the wood engraving by Mike Massingham.

In our review of a previous album, we claimed that you need a figure like Dowd to keep a genre fresh, and that goes just as well for Family Picnic . Despite the craziness and madness, these songs make it clear that Dowd knows better than anyone what makes songs tick, what the essence of a good song is, and how despite all these interventions he keeps it afloat or nonchalantly in the air with that broad grin. Short instrumental“Hoodoo” sounds like work by Freddie King and Link Wray is being fetched by a Fisher Price mangle, but it is very contagious. The same applies to the widely spread blues of “Vicksburg”, which highlights a chapter from the American Civil War, the “Walking The Floor” and “Little Jimmy” built with kitschy synths, or the surprisingly cool ballad “Dream On” with its nice sleepiness. This man controls his art.

With Family Picnic you will not win back the curious passersby who dropped out a few albums ago , Dowds music is too capricious and quirky, but because the songs are so damn well put together (after two listenings, it sounds like edits of long forgotten classics an indefinable past) and following each other at such a fast pace (fourteen in 37 minutes) is perhaps the man’s most accessible record of the past decade. “I want to be a star”he sighs completely at the end of “Conway Twitty”. To be taken with a grain of salt, but at the same time you would like him, if only because his combination of ruthless honesty, witty and consistent insanity has so much to say about the crazy Feast that human interaction is so common. The fool of the company often has the last word.

Johnny Dowd plays on April 19 in Het Ijle Land (Ghent). More (foreign) date on the website . Can not be missed.

 – Translation by Google

 

Live @ Old Launderette (Family Picnic review by Blabber n Smoke)

TICKETS

Johnny Dowd. Family Picnic. Mother Jinx Records

  • By Paul Kerr
  • April 2nd, 2019

Released just prior to Johnny Dowd’s upcoming European tour, Family Picnic has been touted as a slight return to the sound and themes of his earliest albums with less of the tortured electronic skronking which informed his last couple of releases. Certainly Dowd’s idea of family values is not the same as someone like Thatcher or Reagan would have espoused as his families are composed of folk who are like rabbits caught in a headlight, catastrophe rushing towards them. And while the album continues to sound as if it’s been washed in an acid bath, the drums and vocals scarified into the songs, the guitars and keyboards misshaped by the process, by Dowd’s standards it does go some way back to that weird American Gothic which was celebrated in Jim White’s film, Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus. As Dowd sings on the closing number, “I sing songs of lust and depravity, that’s the only kinda songs come out of me,” and that just about sums it up.Much of the album pursues a kind of mutant gutbucket blues with snarly guitar to the fore although it also dips into kaleidoscopic and frightful carney funway music and primitive country jaunts. The opening instrumental, Hoodoo, buzzes with hot guitar and exotic xylorimba summoning up thoughts of mondo type exploitation movies of the sixties. However, it’s like a frog in a blender as it gets increasingly twisted out of shape ending in a wonderfully demented organ solo. Next up, Dowd comes across like a Lou Reed revenant as he sings The Man Of Your Dreams over a ramshackle backing and owes up to having something missing from his psychological makeup, a hollow man indeed. Here he’s got a vocal foil in the shape of Kim Sherwood-Caso whose deadpan contributions to several of the songs add to the bathos. There’s a bit of a side step as Dowd examines the psychological makeup of the south in the maggot infested blues of Vicksburg before he launches into the flickering neon flash of Shameless, a song which demolishes anything The Stones have ever done when they tried to get down and funky and dirty. Again, Dowd’s hero is falling apart, dependent on his “baby” to pull him up while the music is as insistent as a dentist’s drill pile driving into a cavity.

Dowd screws with your mind throughout the album. The melodious chorus to Walking Floor has Sherwood-Caso repeating the words, “Big fucking mess,” while on The Stuttering Wind the harbinger of love is a “shiny black crow” who has a sideline in scavenging the souls of the recently buried. Four Grey Walls is twice as demented at least as the most demented of Tom Waits’ cracked fairground waltzes and on Back End Of Spring Dowd unleashes some scabrous  guitar  as he lays down a beat version of the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. Closer to home, the title song is a litany of the broken and diseased participants of a hellish family gathering and then there’s the tale of Little Jimmy, a threnody for a man who, as Dowd sings, “Was not evil, just a fuck up.”Anyhows, Jimmy gets his comeuppance when his wife, “Cuts his throat because his bullshit she would not take.”

Listening to Conway Twitty is somewhat akin to being inside the brain of any aspiring country star when they’re experiencing an epileptic fit. The ambition sparking but zapped by rogue neurons firing off in all directions, eventually ending in a fugue induced and plaintive plea, “I wanna be a star.” Dowd closes the album with the supremely engaging heaven and hell battle themed Thomas Dorsey where he compares himself to this giant of gospel song and admits that he can’t sing of salvation, only hell and damnation. For what it’s worth, we’d say that Dowd’s trips into the underworld are as glorious as any hallelujah.

Johnny Dowd kicks off his European tour this week with several UK dates included, all details here.