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!):

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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 @ Casita with Tzar

Johnny Dowd super group, TZAR, JD & Mike E.

Johnny Dowd Super Group
feat. Johnny, Kim Sherwood Caso, Brian Wilson, Michael Stark

TZAR

Johnny Dowd & Mike Edmondson

3 sets of music, 9:30pm sharp showtime!
Casita Del Polaris

 

 

Check out the fun at this previous Casita show :

 

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

 

 

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