Twinkle Reviews

Blabber ‘n’ Smoke

A Glasgow view of Americana and related music and writings

Johnny Dowd. Twinkle Twinkle.

twinklecoverforsite460wJohnny Dowd continues to eviscerate Americana on this wonderful collection of popular songs from the past which are chewed up and spat out by Dowd in his unmistakable style.  The album opens with a manifesto of sorts on the updated Execute American Folklore (Again)and it’s hard not to express a chuckle when this Residents like  caustic surge of electronica mutates into  Dowd’s delivery of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. We all know this lullaby but here it’s a bad dream vividly reimagined, more akin to Der Struwwelpeter than Disney with Anna Coogan’s operatic voice adding to the disquiet. Like a mad scientist let loose in a laboratory of steam punk synths Dowd plays all the instruments on the album; farts, parps, clangs and ominous hisses permeate the disc sounding like Krautrock meets the Clangers at times. Songs such as Going Down The Road Feeling Bad, Red River Valley and Tom Dooley are punched into submission. St. James Infirmary Blues is spoken like a beat poet suffering from a benzo famine and John The Revelator is full on biblical fury as the synthesized sounds beep and warble while there’s more biblical darkness on Job 17:11-17 with Dowd coming across like a Manson type prophesiser although the song morphs from its biblical origins into an electro funk invitation to a Friday night funky party.  Dowd’s reworkings of these songs are bizarre and challenging but  he’s  continuing in the tradition of others, taking the songs and adding his own distinctive twist. I challenge anyone not to listen to his take on My Darling Clementine without a smile appearing. Website

 – Original Article

Twinkle, Twinkle by Johnny Dowd

From TheSampler,Radio New Zealand 27 March 2018

Johnny Dowd sings a few family favourites – as you’ve never heard them before. Nick Bollinger wonders whether it was worth the risk.

Johnny Dowd

Johnny Dowd Photo: (c) Kat Dalton

Don’t look now, but I think we’ve got trouble. The folk club has just been invaded by a floor singer with a questionable sense of pitch, and I don’t know what that instrument is he’s holding but it don’t look like a banjo.

The singer is, in fact, Johnny Dowd, and he’s artist I’ve admired ever since his first record Wrong Side Of Memphis came out 20 years ago: a set of his own southern gothic ballads, delivered in a voice bordering on the tuneless and accompanying himself with a rough but effective guitar.

Twinkle, Twinkle

Twinkle, Twinkle Photo: supplied

The whole thing seemed risky, yet it worked, as though a character in a Tom Waits song had seized the means of production and made his own record. Dowd has kept making his own records – fifteen at last count – and kept taking risks. He’s flirted with different settings – including lounge jazz and, believe it or not, prog rock – but the music has always been imprinted with his dark, Bukowski-esque world view. Lately he’s been trying his hand at electronica. Oh, and folk songs.

‘Tom Dooley’, the murder ballad cheerfully popularised by the Kingston Trio, is a song Johnny Dowd might almost have written himself, and no one has ever made the narrator seem more convincingly psychopathic as he does during the spoken verses. But if that one sits quite comfortably in Dowd’s oeuvre, his ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’is truly disturbing, and it’s not the only time Dowd does serious violence to a song held by many to be sacred. He also has a crack at the popular 18th century hymn ‘Rock Of Ages’ that goes for hip-hop and the hymnal simultaneously and I’m not sure either survives.

It’s startling, absurd and ultimately a little exhausting.

Still, an artist who doesn’t take risks is less likely to fail but by the same token is only going to give you the same stuff over and over again. Dowd is a risk-taker, so it’s always different.

Twinkle, Twinkle takes a risk and doesn’t quite carry it off, which doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth attempting, or that this experiment hasn’t simply cleared the creative paths to make way for something extraordinary. I’ll be listening to Dowd’s next one anyway, just in case.

Twinkle, Twinkle is available on Mother Jinx

 – Original Article

american.uk reviews Twinkle Twinkle – CD Release @ The Dock Tonite 2/17

Johnny Dowd “Twinkle, Twinkle” (Seven Shooter Music, 2017)

New AlbumFrom beneath the waters of this dark and eerie sonic soundscape emerge some of the most well-known songs in the American canon. The songs on this fine album are as familiar as, well, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ – the title cut – along with ‘Tom Dooley’, ‘Oh My Darling Clementine’, ‘Red River Valley’, ‘St. James Infirmary’ and ‘House of the Rising Sun’. But it’s a safe bet you’ve never heard them done this way. Dowd is highly original, even eccentric. Sometimes these songs, familiar as they are, can be recognised only by the lyrics.

This album is dominated by dark, deep electronic sounds, anchored by a heavy beat. Dowd is credited with playing ‘all instruments’, but there’s little here that will remind you of any instruments you’ve ever heard before. The vocals are also handled mostly by Dowd. But ‘intones’ would be a better word than ‘sings’. Mostly he just speaks the words.

This isn’t an album you’ll put on when your Aunt Clara comes for a visit. Nor will you dance to it. Of the 13 tracks, only the opening cut – ‘Execute American Folklore, Again’ – was written by Dowd. All the others are songs for the ages. There are no spaces between the tracks. One song sinks into the sonic depths; then, soon enough, a new song emerges from the electronic murk. While the album cover lists 13 tracks, this is really one 36-minute long meditation on the great American songbook.

Dowd, 69, didn’t begin his music career until he was nearly 50, when he released the album ‘Wrong Side of Memphis’, devoted to songs of sin and murder. The album turned him into a cult figure; since then he’s released one unconventional album after another. The music can fall harshly on the ears on first listen. But the album grows on you. And while it’s not dance music, it definitely has a beat – deep pounding drums punctuate the songs.

This, in short, is a work of creativity and imagination – the work of a highly unusual mind. You’ll hear some of the most familiar American songs of all time, reinvented as if they’d been run through a mad computer. But madness and genius are closely related. ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ is an album that, over time, will speak to you in many different ways. This one’s a keeper.

Live @ The Dock

AND a guitarist named Mike !

 – Facebook Event

Johnny Dowd will celebrate the release of his new record Twinkle, Twinkle (out on January 12th) with a belated hometown show @ The Dock in Ithaca, NY on February 17th. Full band show with Michael Edmondson, Brian Wilson, Michael Stark, Kim Sherwood Caso, and Anna Coogan, with Tzar as the support act. The album is a collection of radically rearranged public domain songs. He has put up a stream of Red River Valley on his website

 – Original article

 

 

Oor and The Independent review Twinkle Twinkle

The older, the crazier? Next year he turns 70, but since he discovered the use of synths, electronics and beats alongside his guitar, a whole new world seems to have opened for the New York singer/guitar player.He lets himself go, wonderfully off-key and against the grain, with songs from among others Jane Taylor (etc)

‘As if Hank Williams is transformed into Captain Beefheart who bought himself a bunch of primitive electronics’ the Independent wrote. We agree. Soon he will be touring with Melle de Boer. Nice couple!

 – Translation by Tamara Veldman via Facebook

 

Real Roots Cafe reviews Twinkle Twinkle

Johnny Dowd, Twinkle, Twinkle

De eerste prachtige uitgave van en voor 2018 is een feit. Twinkle, Twinkle van Johnny Dowd is een release waarbij de mond meerdere malen van verbazing openvalt. Op zijn site vertelt hij in zijn eigen woorden over zijn nieuwe langspeler:“Howdy all. I have finished tracking my new record, tentatively titled Twinkle, Twinkle. All the songs are in the public domain — ‘Tom Dooley’, ‘St. James Infirmary’, ‘Red River Valley’, ‘Rock of Ages’… you get the picture. It features Anna Coogan and Mike Edmondson on vocals. If you ever wondered what folk music would sound like in an electronic setting, this is it. I’ll release it on my own label, Mother Jinx Records. Not sure when. I’ll keep you posted.” Twinkle, Twinkle staat in januari 2018. Zoveel is nu duidelijk, in de schappen van de winkels.

Dowd heeft een paar eigen composities aangevuld met Amerikaanse liedjes uit een ver en muzikaal verleden. ‘The Cuckoo’, ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’, ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ en ‘John The Revelator’ zijn overbekende traditionals. Dowd haalt elk nummer door zijn elektronische studio en stopt de nummers vol afwijkende, vreemde en verrassende klanken.

Na een eerste beluistering ligt een conclusie voor de hand. Dowd heeft zijn hand overspeeld. De nummers zijn slechts in de verte te herkennen en spatten uiteen door de wens te verbazen en misschien wel te choqueren. Precies op dat punt is er ook de oprechte verbazing. Dowd heeft de nummers aangepakt, gegeseld bijna én met respect behandeld. De glimlach op de lippen van de luisteraar om zoveel gekte, verandert af en toe in een sardonische grijns. Het verleden verdient respect, maar mag ook dienen als basis voor muzikale gekte en brille.

‘Execute American Folklore, Again’ opent en is een nummer dat Dowd bij optredens in 2016 al speelde. Hij voegt op deze release het woord Again toe. Het is bekend dat Dowd de Amerikaanse muziekgeschiedenis graag op zijn geheel eigen manier vertolkt. Op Twinkle, Twinklle gaat hij ‘again’,  opnieuw de Amerikaanse folklore te lijf.

Na vele luisterbeurten is er vooral de verbazing gebleven. ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ loopt al na ruim twee minuten moeiteloos over in ‘Oh, My Darling, Clementine’. De solo tussen de coupletten is typisch Dowd, simpel en schurend. De Amerikaanse bard melkt de nummers niet uit. Zoals altijd heeft hij lak aan conventies en schakelt bijna verveeld naar een volgend liedje.

Twinkle, Twinkle is een unieke plaat. Het is een release die te denken geeft en telkens om aandacht vraagt. De luisteraar draait nummers om gedachtes tijdens eerdere draaibeurten te bevestigen. Dowd zet iedereen continue op het verkeerde been.

Afsluitend nummer is ‘Job 17: 11 – 17’. “Thank God it’s Friday. I’m gonna have a party. Gonna have a funky, funky good time,” zingt Dowd. En dat is uiteindelijk precies wat Twinkle, Twinkle is. Een feest voor de oren van iedereen die avontuur zoekt in folklore. (Mother Jinx Records)

Zaterdag 27 Januari 2018 in Paradiso. Zaal open 21:30, Aanvang 22:00

 – Original article