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!):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Live @ The Running Horse (Americana.uk interview)

Johnny Dowd with support by John Marriott

JOHNNY DOWD BRINGS “FAMILY PICNIC” to Running Horse.
Ticket : £12 (Door £15)

Thirty years on from his remarkable, indescribably dark and damn right startling Americana debut Wrong Side Of Memphis, legend Johnny Dowd returns to the roots rock arena with Family Picnic, his new album

Over the last thirty years, Dowd has been releasing records that defy trends, a unique catalogue of work that stands head and shoulders above many of his lauded contemporaries. Now in his seventieth year on God’s good earth, Dowd has lost none of the vigour, enthusiasm, and attitude that has seen him forge his position as one of America’s most inquisitive musical minds, a musical explorer who has charted expeditions to genre-defying destinations that, at their heart, question, challenge, and dissect in their own way notions of the American Dream.

Family Picnic is the first time Dowd has really looked backwards in all that time, instead of plunging forward into a sonic unknown with the playfulness of a child.

As Dowd says himself: “I had to dig pretty deep for this one.
Not sure how many more tunes I have in me. Tick Tock!
This record took an unexpected turn to the past – my past. It’s kind of like Wrong Side of Memphis 30 years down the road. Surprisingly little has changed for me (emotionally, that is). I’m still drawn to the same themes — unrequited love, murder, general foolishness. Waltzes and shuffles and boom chuck beats abound. Ice cream chord changes. What’s not to like? An Americana classic, if I do say so myself.”

 

Van Life – Johnny Dowd

Posted on

Ithaca NY’s Johnny Dowd has been patrolling the dark, uneasy, unclassified byways and B-roads of the American heartlands for over two decades. A blistering, uncompromising guitar slinger and songwriter, Dowd is set to release his new album ‘Family Picnic’ this month, an ‘americana’ gem that returns to the topics and themes that inspired his legendary debut, ‘Wrong Side Of Memphis‘ and once again underlines Dowd as one of America’s true musical explorers. Americana-UK catches up with him as he prepares to embark on another European tour and asks him about the music that accompanies any such road trip.

So Johnny, how’s life on the road for you and what’s in that glovebox?

There comes a time on every tour when the next drive is too far, your emotional tank is nearly empty, and you can think of nothing but your mortality. At that point, you pull out ZZ Top’s ‘Greatest Hits,’ and you are again ready to conquer the world.

After a gig I want to hear something as far away from the music I played as possible. Sun Ra fits the bill. Any Sun Ra album. It doesn’t matter. He is the tallest giant in a universe of giants.

Today is an easy drive. You feel like you are not a day over 60. In other words, all is groovy. It’s time for Grant Green’s ‘Ain’t it Funky Now.’ Funky and sophisticated.

One of the first albums I bought was James Brown, Live at the Apollo. The very first album I bought was by Percy Faith. I don’t know what that was about. I do love a string section. So many great James Brown albums, but I guess James Brown Live at Paris Olympia 1971 has got to be high on the list. Speaking of high, I don’t know what the band was on, but some of those tempos are ridiculous.

This is another album that’s good after a greasy English breakfast. Incredible playing, uber funky, socially interesting. Of course I’m talking about ‘Headhunters,’ Herbie Hancock. Anything you can do, he can do better.

It’s that boring time after sound check and dinner. You really have nothing left to say to your band mates, let alone strangers. I might go to the van for some alone time and listen to Mary Wells, ‘All the Best.’ This album is like a time machine for me. I can usually only listen to a couple of songs before I start getting too emotional. Then it’s time for a brewski.

Any time is a perfect time to play this record. You could listen to it before your greasy English breakfast, just to get your mind and belly in alignment. ‘Paid in Full,’ Eric B. and Rakim. (Have I mentioned Betty Davis, the woman who put the funk in Miles?) ( Yes, MANY times…. ed.)

Late night. Trying to find the hotel. Lost. Twenty minute drive turns into an hour-and-a-half. No problem. ‘The Very Best of ‘ Johnny Guitar Watson (Rhino Records) will keep you focussed, relaxed, and alert. I just love his guitar playing.

You have a day off. You would prefer to stay in your motel room and watch tv. But your band mates want to drive somewhere to see ancient ruins. What can you do? Dial up some Sonny Sharrock, ‘Ask the Ages.’ This album affects me the way The Dark Side of the Moon affects hippies.

Sometimes, hopefully only once per tour, you are lying in bed in your motel room, it’s 3 AM, and sleep is impossible. You are engulfed in an ocean of loneliness and regret, and there is only one album that really captures that feeling: ‘Only the Lonely,’ Frank Sinatra. But if it’s the last day of the tour, and you are headed to the airport, then the only album to play is his ‘Songs for Swinging Lovers.’ Boundless swinging optimism. So that is touring. Hours of great music in the van. Followed by a gig, motel, breakfast. Repeat.

Live @ Old Launderette (Family Picnic review by Blabber n Smoke)

TICKETS

Johnny Dowd. Family Picnic. Mother Jinx Records

  • By Paul Kerr
  • April 2nd, 2019

Released just prior to Johnny Dowd’s upcoming European tour, Family Picnic has been touted as a slight return to the sound and themes of his earliest albums with less of the tortured electronic skronking which informed his last couple of releases. Certainly Dowd’s idea of family values is not the same as someone like Thatcher or Reagan would have espoused as his families are composed of folk who are like rabbits caught in a headlight, catastrophe rushing towards them. And while the album continues to sound as if it’s been washed in an acid bath, the drums and vocals scarified into the songs, the guitars and keyboards misshaped by the process, by Dowd’s standards it does go some way back to that weird American Gothic which was celebrated in Jim White’s film, Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus. As Dowd sings on the closing number, “I sing songs of lust and depravity, that’s the only kinda songs come out of me,” and that just about sums it up.Much of the album pursues a kind of mutant gutbucket blues with snarly guitar to the fore although it also dips into kaleidoscopic and frightful carney funway music and primitive country jaunts. The opening instrumental, Hoodoo, buzzes with hot guitar and exotic xylorimba summoning up thoughts of mondo type exploitation movies of the sixties. However, it’s like a frog in a blender as it gets increasingly twisted out of shape ending in a wonderfully demented organ solo. Next up, Dowd comes across like a Lou Reed revenant as he sings The Man Of Your Dreams over a ramshackle backing and owes up to having something missing from his psychological makeup, a hollow man indeed. Here he’s got a vocal foil in the shape of Kim Sherwood-Caso whose deadpan contributions to several of the songs add to the bathos. There’s a bit of a side step as Dowd examines the psychological makeup of the south in the maggot infested blues of Vicksburg before he launches into the flickering neon flash of Shameless, a song which demolishes anything The Stones have ever done when they tried to get down and funky and dirty. Again, Dowd’s hero is falling apart, dependent on his “baby” to pull him up while the music is as insistent as a dentist’s drill pile driving into a cavity.

Dowd screws with your mind throughout the album. The melodious chorus to Walking Floor has Sherwood-Caso repeating the words, “Big fucking mess,” while on The Stuttering Wind the harbinger of love is a “shiny black crow” who has a sideline in scavenging the souls of the recently buried. Four Grey Walls is twice as demented at least as the most demented of Tom Waits’ cracked fairground waltzes and on Back End Of Spring Dowd unleashes some scabrous  guitar  as he lays down a beat version of the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. Closer to home, the title song is a litany of the broken and diseased participants of a hellish family gathering and then there’s the tale of Little Jimmy, a threnody for a man who, as Dowd sings, “Was not evil, just a fuck up.”Anyhows, Jimmy gets his comeuppance when his wife, “Cuts his throat because his bullshit she would not take.”

Listening to Conway Twitty is somewhat akin to being inside the brain of any aspiring country star when they’re experiencing an epileptic fit. The ambition sparking but zapped by rogue neurons firing off in all directions, eventually ending in a fugue induced and plaintive plea, “I wanna be a star.” Dowd closes the album with the supremely engaging heaven and hell battle themed Thomas Dorsey where he compares himself to this giant of gospel song and admits that he can’t sing of salvation, only hell and damnation. For what it’s worth, we’d say that Dowd’s trips into the underworld are as glorious as any hallelujah.

Johnny Dowd kicks off his European tour this week with several UK dates included, all details here.

Family Picnic Tour in April,CD Release @ Grayhaven

Johnny Dowd: new album “Family Picnic” March 2019; European tour April 2019

Johnny Dowd has finished his new record Family Picnic. Available in March 2019, followed by an European tour in April:

Hello everyone.

My new record, “Family Picnic,” is finished. Put a stake in it. Seriously, it’s pretty good. A little more in the roots rock bag than my last few discs. Waltzes, shuffles, etc.

The songs translate well when played live. You’re in for a real treat if you come out to hear Mike and me. Planning on a Euro tour in April (with record release in March).

                                                                     –  Original Article

JOHNNY DOWD BRINGS “FAMILY PICNIC” TO EUROPE IN APRIL

Thirty years on from his remarkable, indescribably dark and damn right startling Americana debut Wrong Side Of Memphis, Ithaca, NY, legend Johnny Dowd returns to the roots rock arena with Family Picnic, his new album set for release on March 1st through Mother Jinx Records.

Over the last thirty years, Dowd has been releasing records that defy trends, a unique catalogue of work that stands head and shoulders above many of his lauded contemporaries. Now in his seventieth year on God’s good earth, Dowd has lost none of the vigour, enthusiasm, and attitude that has seen him forge his position as one of America’s most inquisitive musical minds, a musical explorer who has charted expeditions to genre-defying destinations that, at their heart, question, challenge, and dissect in their own way notions of the American Dream. Family Picnic — once again featuring long-time cohorts Michael Edmondson and Kim Sherwood  -Caso – is the first time Dowd has really looked backwards in all that time, instead of plunging forward into a sonic unknown with the playfulness of a child.

As Dowd says himself: “I had to dig pretty deep for this one. Not sure how many more tunes I have in me. Tick tock. This record took an unexpected turn to the past — my past. It’s kind of like Wrong Side of Memphis 30 years down the road. Surprisingly little has changed for me (emotionally, that is). I’m still drawn to the same themes — unrequited love, murder, general foolishness. Waltzes and shuffles and boom chuck beats abound. Ice cream chord changes. Plus Kim Sherwood -Caso – and Mike Edmondson. What’s not to like? An Americana classic, if I do say so myself.”

With Family Picnic Johnny Dowd will be touring Europe in April:

TOUR DATES

                                                                                                   – Sedate Bookings

Johnny Dowd debuted about thirty years ago with a dark Americana album, Wrong Side or Memphis, and with Family Picnic he returns to that roots rock environment. The lyrics still have that black humor, just listen to the portrait of a family in the title song of this album, that would not make you happy, if he did not put it so funny. And that is actually why I have a weakness for this American singer / songwriter – he is funny and works on my laughter muscles, also with a song like Let’s Have a Party , where I really laugh irresistibly, how clunky those drums also may sound, or maybe that’s why. He opens with a very nice instrumental, Hoodoo, which immediately puts you in the mood for good murder ballads and songs about other misery.

Johnny Dowd is now seventy and is accompanied by two musicians he worked with more often, Michael Edmondson and Kim Sherwood-Caso, and that works perfectly. A perfect Americana album. Do not miss the tour that brings Dowd to Europe in early 2019.

  • Johnny Dowd – Family Picnic – Mother Jinx Records

Listen to a few fragments here:

Johnny Dowd – Hoodoo 

Johnny Dowd – Family Picnic

Johnny Dowd – Let’s Have a Party

Johnny Dowd – Thomas Dorsey

UPCOMING SHOW

 

You can catch John in the states March 1st at his CD Release and Family Art Opening. John will be playing with Mike Edmondson and Kim Sherwood-Caso (Park Doing opening), and JD’s kinfolk Jennifer and Jade will contribute arts & crafts . There will be good music, eclectic art work, some snacks, and lots of good company. All arts sale proceeds go the the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes (represented by JD Jyl along with her photobooth). A Don’t Miss event.

 

The Sante Fe New Mexican reviews Family Picnic

TERRELL’S TUNE-UP

The nightmares before Christmas

▼ Family Picnic by Johnny Dowd. Here’s another who embraces losers, down-and-outers, and pictures from life’s other side. On his latest (soon-to-be-released) album, Dowd embraces his musical past. His last few records have found the moving company owner drifting into minimalist, sometimes menacing electronic weirdness as a backdrop to his Texas drawl. But Family Picnic is closer in sound to his classic turn-of-the-century output. And more good news: Singer Kim Sherwood-Caso, who graced most of Dowd’s works until the dawn of this decade, is back. And she’s still delightful.

There are nods to the blues here — albeit the blues through a crazy Dowd filter. There’s the harmonica-driven shuffle of “Vicksburg,” in which the music suggests good times as Dowd sings about the carnage of the Civil War. Likewise, the song “Conway Twitty” is a distorted blues tune about a rube soaking in the bright lights of New York City, dreaming of being a star “like Conway Twitty.”

Longtime Dowd fanatics will recognize “Dream On” as a version of a song that originally appeared on Chainsaw of Life by Hellwood — a short-lived band Dowd had with singer Jim White circa 2006. In the song, Dowd confesses a fear of burning out. “You called me a dreamer, but I’m all dreamed out/I’m just a whisper/I don’t know what I was shouting all about,” he sings.

“Thomas Dorsey,” the last song on Family Picnic — and another one from the Hellwood project — is a tribute to the greatest songwriter in the history of gospel music. While the Hellwood version is dark and minor-key, here Dowd turns it into what on the outside sounds like a happy cowboy song — though the fadeout, where Johnny and Kim repeat the refrain, “I wish that Satan would let me go,” is jarring in this context.

– Original Article

Mark your calendars-John’s official CD release and bonus Family Art show is March 1 at the Grayhaven in Ithaca, a venue making a really interesting cultural addition to the Ithaca scene . You’ll get to see a new side to John’s wack sensibility, and a peek at his genetic co-conspirators talents as well. To top it all off, profit from the art sales goes to the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. (That right, it’s yet another Dowd bringing that great cause to the table).

Thanks to Low Profile for making it happen…

                                                                                 – Ed.

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