Pandemic Productions Presents: Johnny and Friends

Looking back, it’s been kind of amazing seeing the plethora of collaborative stuff that’s appeared online in 2020, aka the year of stay-the-hell-away-from-me. Where there’s a will there’s an app, I guess.

Hopefully you all checked out the great Hideaway video Justin Asher put together showcasing former/current/future/past/ongoing members of the Johnny Dowd Band (Mike Edmondson, Anna Coogan, Brian “Willie B” Wilson, Matthew Saccuccimorano, Kim Sherwood Caso, Michael Stark, Justin himself, and special guest talent Sally Timms). It was followed in short order by Thanksgiving Day, same crew. Which do I like better? I can’t say, but if you haven’t seen TD yet, be prepared for some wacky guitar work and music video action. No lie.

Justin tells us:

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
I’ve been busy this quarantine putting together a virtual reunion with the past and present members of the Johnny Dowd Band. I spent much of the late 90s and early 00s touring and recording with them, and it’s been wonderful to reconnect and make noise together. This month we made a version of Johnny’s song “Thanksgiving Day“. May it bring you as much joy and introspection as it did for us putting it together. Check it out and spread the word. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Hope y’all have a relaxing and safe holiday!
-Justin
(P.S. I mixed and edited the audio as well as the video. Apparently I’m a video editor now.)
 

 

Another collaboration produced Fine Time, part of the Conductors Tale by Rik Van Iersel, with Johnny reciting his poetry to music by Senga Etna and Johnny Dowd.

 
Neither last nor least, Johnny and his family did what families should do, and worked together for a whole series of art projects. Continue experiencing this cornucopia with more art and music videos.
 
And so it goes, keeping on keeping on. Hope you are, too.

Hideaway Video Release

Video

Take that, Pandemic Hell! Thanks to the wizardry of Justin Asher, Johnny has several of his band iterations getting together for a kind of quarantine version of the Last Waltz finale…except it’s not going to be a finale. Hold your breath till Thanksgiving, unless you’re busy screaming.

Hello good people.

Hard times and more coming. About all we can do is take it day at time. 

Something that really gave me a lift was the virtual reunion of my band: Justin Asher, Brian Wilson, Kim Sherwood-Caso, Anna Coogan, Mike Edmondson, Mike Stark, and honorary member, Sally Timms. We recorded “Hideaway,” which is about my mother. Lyrics by me and music by Brian. 

The project was Justin’s idea, and he organized and produced the whole thing — did all the audio engineering and created the video above.

It was so much fun, we’re doing another song, “Thanksgiving Day,” which should be done by Thanksgiving.

I’m still writing and recording. At this point, I’ve got more in the vault than Prince!

Stay safe, stay in touch, and see you down the the road.

— Johnny

 

Johnny Dowd Band eenmalig terug samen

Of hoe corona dan toch ook positieve dingen kan veroorzaken.

Ok, het was virtueel, maar Justin Asher, Brian Wilson, Kim Sherwood-Caso, Anna Coogan, Mike Edmondson, Mike Stark en erelid Sally Timms, ooit de band van Johnny Dowd werden eenmalig verenigd en namen zo Hideaway (zie hieronder) op, een song over Dowds moeder op muziek van Brian Wilson. Het project was een idee van Justin Asher, die alles regelde en produceerde inclusief de clip. 

En Johnny Dowd liet al weten dat hij nog van alles achter de hand heeft: “I’ve got more in the vault than Prince!'”https://www.youtube.com/embed/B3H5RA907F418 oktober 2020Patrick Van Gestel© 2004-2020 daMusic – Alle rechten voorbehouden.
daMusic is niet verantwoordelijk voor de inhoud van de externe websites.

                                                                                                                – Da Music

Johnny Dowd: virtual band reunion for “Hideaway” video

Former Johnny Dowd band member Justin Asher got in touch with other musicians who have played with this musical maverick over the years. The virtual band reunion led to a video of them recording of Hideaway, a song from the Temporary Shelter album.

                                                                                                                 – HCTF

The Falcon and a Secret Show by the skin of their teeth

 

Whoa, just made it to these shows before NYS shutdown. None of us got sick afterwards, and we hope no one who came to the shows did, either. The rest of the house party tour got cancelled, and a couple of art shows in the making put on hold. May both these venues are up and running safely soon, because they were both most fun hangs.

The Falcon on March 6 was a major revelation. How did we not know about a venue as magnificent as this, and an owner/soundman as interesting as Tony Falco? Not only did Tony and his superhero wife (she’s a teacher) put us up, but he walked us through, yes, fixing another tour flat tire.

First off: location location location.

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The inimitable George Spafford opened for Johnny and Mike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next on March 7, skidding into MA broadside in a cloud of smoke, was what turned out to be the last show of the shortened tour. The Super Secret One that must have somehow leaked out, because not only packed house, but Brian and Kim!

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(Swag mucho appreciated, Jim!)

 

So sorry Lucky Penny and Roadmaster Stage. We missed you guys! If John comes your way someday, here’s my fav sign ever by the fans in MA-feel free to use!:

 

 

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.

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