Local musicians fundraiser and office party at Maxie’s-All Welcome!
Of course, we have no photos of the future show, but here’s some shots from last year at The Haunt. Johnny-centric as usual (per the blog name!) but a great show with many local talents. Check the poster-you can catch them again this Sunday!
A Glasgow view of Americana and related music and writings
Johnny Dowd. Twinkle Twinkle.
Johnny 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
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 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 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.
Johnny Dowd “Twinkle, Twinkle” (Seven Shooter Music, 2017)
From 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.
Johnny Dowd offers a dark and eerie take some some of America’s best-known songs.
JIM CATALANO, SOUNDOFF Published 7:32 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2018
Johnny Dowd tackles folk favorites on new ‘Twinkle’ CD
Johnny Down re-imagines some well-loved folk standards on “Twinkle, Twinkle.”Photo by Kat Dalton
Johnny Dowd might’ve titled his 2016 album “Execute American Folklore,” but on his brand-new album “Twinkle, Twinkle,” he literally does that: takes some well-loved folk standards and runs them through the Dowd sonic blender.
Thus, we get familiar tunes such as “Tom Dooley,” “Red River Valley” and “St. James Infirmary Blues” — not to mention “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” — deconstructed through a lo-fi production with the lyrics declaimed in Dowd’s familiar twangy sing-talk vocal style.
Saturday, Dowd will play a CD release show for “Twinkle, Twinkle” at the Dock. Tzar — the duo of Michael Stark and Brian Wilson — will open the show, and then join Dowd and Kim Sherwood-Caso for a few tunes from the several years they played in Dowd’s band. After reading some of his poetry, Dowd will be joined by Anna Coogan and Michael Edmondson to close out the night with songs from the new album. There’s no cover for the 8 p.m. show.
Dowd, who just returned from a three-week tour of Europe, said in mid-January that he didn’t want to get “too intellectual” about the new album.
“You talk about executing American folklore, and you never done a folk song,” he noted in an interview at his studio. “But it wasn’t that thought out — I just got into the idea of learning some regular folk songs, because I didn’t really know that many.”
“You can almost always get everyone to start singing the chorus to ‘Clementine’ or ‘Tom Dooley.’ You don’t even realize you know it until you start singing it—it’s like embedded in your consciousness,” he added.
He noted that his first attempt at the album was “too regular.”
“All those songs are vocal songs, about the melody,” he added. “They’re simple, but everybody knows them. But my vocal versions were just OK — they weren’t wrong, but I can’t really sing them very straight and have it be as good as Peter, Paul and Mary. So then I decided to go with my own thing.”
Dowd recorded most of the album himself, relying on a Mini-Brute bass synthesizer and modular drum machines for the basic tracks. “Originally, it was gonna be just that and vocals, but I ended up adding a lot of stuff,” he said. Edmondson and Coogan also contributed some vocal parts, and Matthew Saccuccimorano mixed and mastered the final tracks.
The new album already has received rave reviews from British music magazines such as Uncut and Mojo, along with some bad ones on Dutch websites.
“I’ve always gotten horrible reviews there — for them, there’s only one Americana artist and that’s Townes Van Zandt, and people who sound like him,” he noted.
“That’s where I got the title ‘Execute American Folklore,’ from a translation of a old review I got saying ‘This is so horrible it’s like he’s trying to execute American folklore.’ I thought ‘Yes, exactly — that is what I’m trying to do.’”