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.

Live @ Grassroots – In the Cabaret Sat. 9pm One Show Only

“Country-soul rejects no useful tool in its arsenal of dark expression – in the house of Johnny Dowd, drum machines and punk guitar tear the place apart, and story puts things back together, even if there are cracks left in the walls from all the ruckus. Find Johnny in the Cabaret Hall on Saturday at 9pm.”

 

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 9, 2017: Johnny Dowd performs at Hill Country Live in Washington, DC opening for Pere Ubu. (Photo by Richie Downs)

 

Grassroots interview 2015

 

UPDATE FROM JOHNNY’S SITE (www.johnnydowd.com):

The new record is coming along swimmingly. I guess if I were to put it in a genre, it would be Alt Country/Roots Rock/Americana, etc. They’re the kind of tunes I was writing 20 years ago. Mike Edmondson plays some great rock and roll guitar, and the icing on the cake is the return of Kim Sherwood Caso, singing better than ever. Still some work to do, but this may be a breakthrough album. Grammys, here I come. 

 

Grassroots 2016 with The Sex Robots

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

 

 

SoundBlab reviews Twinkle Twinkle

JOHNNY DOWD – TWINKLE TWINKLE

New Album

Johnny Dowd first caught my ear in 1999 with, Pictures From Life’s Other Side.Wherein he demonically skewered a maudlin Hank Williams ditty. As for the rest, it was the musical equivalent of Sam Shepherd’s, Buried Child. To this day, it remains one of my favorite albums. On Other Side’s ‘God Created Woman’ there’s the ominous line, “Meet me in the parking lot, up on level three. There’s something I gotta show you. There’s something you just gotta see.” Dowd’s latest, Twinkle Twinkle might just be that something.

His last album, Execute American Folklore, pretty much was a statement of intent. Twinkle Twinkle, takes its cue from there and then proceeds to wreak unholy carnage on what have become the standards of American Folklore. By the time he’s done, you won’t recognize them. They’re beyond redemption. Like Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask ReplicaTwinkle Twinkle is an ornery, willfully perverse work of Art.

“The coo coo is a pretty bird,” Clarence Ashley once crooned on a scratchy bit of shellac sometime in early 20th Century. Well, Dowd’s version is just plain cuckoo. Here this well-worn standard sounds like it joined up with Devo after a 5th of Jim Beam. This bird is so mean, it will rip your heart out like a buzzard if you so much as tip toe around it. And you not only won’t recognize this ‘St. James Infirmary’, you’ll need directions home after sliding all over the guts spilled on the floor.  In Dowd’s hands, Son House’s ‘John The Revelator’ reads more like a Dear John letter to Nietzsche’s lost, dead God. ‘Tom Dooley’ gets a make- over with a pair of brass knuckles. And God help you if you’re caught snoozing in this ‘House of The Rising Sun’. If that weren’t enough, Dowd has cut the most unsettling and terrifying version of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ you’ll ever hear. Mozart must be laughing in his grave.

In terms of Dowd’s song choices, nothing on this album is arbitrary. Titles like, ‘Trouble In Mind’ and ‘Going Down The Road Feeling Bad’ have resonance in regards to what’s currently going on in the ol’ Red White and Blue. Forgive me for getting political here, but in its entirety Twinkle Twinkle can be viewed as a biting commentary on the America so many bigots like to “God bless” all the time. This album is undeniably a crooked middle finger to our political culture and times. It doesn’t take a stable genius to see that. What Dowd has laid down here, is no accident. If one’s followed Dowd’s career, he’s been moving in this direction for years. In fact, he’s always dealt these cards out. But with Twinkle Twinkle he goes for the jugular with all the gusto and surgical precision of Jack the Ripper. In fact, this little opus could have just as easily be entitled, Jack The Ripper Sings American Folk Songs. 

In any event, Twinkle Twinkle is the perfect soundtrack to the madness under the surface of our affable myths of melting pots, baseball, apple pie and fireworks on the 4th of July. Here Dowd is ripping the band aid off and staring that ugly beast right in the face. And doing it with brains, heart and moral outrage. Not to mention one hell of a twisted sense of humor.

Woody Guthrie wrote, “This Machine Kill Fascists” on his guitar for a damn good reason. Despite Pete Seeger and the Civil Rights movement, a lot of these songs were watered down by the white bread likes of the Kingston Trio. Glossed over as coffee house clap a-longs for entitled college students. Then later, came O Brother Where Art Thou and the shallow hipster Alt Country/Americana revival. By comparison, Twinkle Twinkle isn’t easy or pretty listening. But it sure has balls. Not to mention, vision. If you despised what the likes of Kingston Trio did to American Folk Music, you’ll take pure delight in this. Revenge is sweet.

 – Original article