The album of the moment, and probably of the year, is without a doubt Johnny Dowd’s. “Family Picnic” is – pardon my french – a splendid cubist portrait of forty years of American music. Let’s say Georges Braque with a Fender amp and a flask of whiskey. Is it really necessary to introduce Johnny Dowd ? Twenty years of activity and almost as many albums since “Wrong Side Of Memphis” in 1997. Now at 70, his energy seems intact. His sound cocktail, strong in taste, bitter on the palate, has not changed much since its inception. Just refined. Black humor (desperately black), funky riffs, bitter stories and mixing styles like crazy. On this new album, he succeeds in synthesizing all this and even more, twisting his own songs in all directions, with often a simple rhythm Bo Diddleybox as backbone, slashed by raw guitars and distorted organs. Somewhere at the crossroads, in the good company of Alan Vega, Captain Beefheart, Bo Diddley and Jim Thompson. It is, indeed, the author of “The Killer Inside Me” that comes to mind. For the gall, this almost medical description of the conjugal self-pity, for the miserable and frustrated trajectories of characters that Johnny invites us to observe, with some assumed and wicked voyeurism. This angle, the vision of a troubled America, mixed with blues roots, tribal rock and poisoned hymns, is definitely his signature. And it is simply unique in today’s music territory. By his side, long-time companions Kim Sherwood-Caso or Michael Edmondson add some blinking christmas tree lights to the crime scene. Ice on this cake : Dowd has fun, in a Bob Dylan’s punky fashion, while methodically dissecting one of his standards to the bone (“Thomas Dorsey”, featured on Hellwood’s album, shared with Jim White, another rare bird). It’s wobbly & wonky, the antithesis of easy-listening, it itches and it stings. Let’s take “Four Gray Walls” : Just picture the end of some unlikely festival, and on the main stage, a stubborn tipsy tramp is refusing to let go off the microphone and the guitar, stolen from the headlining fancy star, that is actually snoring since long in the clean sheets of the best local hotel. There you have it – sort of. It’s vivid and rotten at the same time, it’s shaking and intriguing, unlike the vast majority of nowadays productions. Johnny is a hero. Johnny is on a European tour this spring. No date in France. Of course. But who can say no to a weekend in one of our many neighboring & friendly countries of this beautiful – and wobbly as well – Europe ?
— Dyl Dylan, Le Cri du Coyote (France)