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



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 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


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 reviews Twinkle Twinkle

Johnny Dowd

Twinkle, Twinkle
Guy Peters – photos: Kat Dalton – January 19, 2018


Dat Johnny Dowd geen doorsnee muzikant zou worden, stond ten tijde van zijn solodebuut Wrong Side Of Memphis al vast. Twintig jaar en een dozijn studioalbums later, kan je eigenlijk spreken van een totaalwerk dat, meer nog dan een inkijk in de geest van een eeuwige buitenstaander, een uitgebreide commentaar op de songtraditie is. Weliswaar met Twinkle, Twinkle als nieuw hoogtepunt van vervreemding.

Gedeeltelijk is dat te danken aan het feit dat ’s mans albums van bandaffaires zijn uitgedund tot solo-oefeningen, waarbij de focus gaandeweg verschoof van de klassieke combinatie van stem en gitaar, naar een vorm van bricolagekunst met ranzige beats, pompende bassen, eindeloze effecten en de monotoon uitgespuwde preken van een intussen bijna zeventigjarige experimentalist. Haalde That’s Your Wife On The Back Of My Horse (2015) een nieuw niveau van doorgeslagen dementie en knutseldrift, dan deed Execute American Folklore (2016) daar nog eens een schep bovenop. En Twinkle, Twinkle gaat nog verder, met dat verschil dat Dowd zich deze keer op the public domain gooit.

Dat heeft hij altijd al gedaan, onrechtstreeks, met invloeden uit folk, country, blues, spirituals en hymnes, en de talloze minder en meer expliciete verwijzingen die op platen en tijdens concerten opdoken, maar deze keer brengt hij interpretaties van klassiekers uit de folk- en aanverwante tradities die al even radicaal ontsporen als zijn eigen materiaal. Elf songs, waarvan de meest dateren van begin twintigste of zelfs negentiende eeuw (en eerder), omarmd door twee eigen constructies. Van die laatste is “Execute American Folklore, Again” de overgang met het vorige album. Dat execute zowel vertaald kan worden als “uitvoeren” en als “executeren” is geen toevalligheid. Bij Dowd is het altijd laveren tussen waanzin en bittere ernst (al liggen die vaak vervaarlijk dicht bij elkaar), kwansuis willekeurig rondgestrooide verzen en oneliners. Pruttelende synths, Butthole Surfers-gitaar, kitscherige effecten, doldwaze zang en andere vormen van muzikaal moddergooien. En achteraan “Job 17:11-17”, met de betreffende verzen die gedeclameerd worden als een gelaten terugblik op een sterfbed. Maar ook: “Thank God it’s Friday.”

Daartussen dus elf songs die stuk voor stuk gefileerd en gevandaliseerd worden. Verkrachtingen die gevoelige zielen op stang zullen jagen. Melodieën worden buiten gegooid of op hun kop gezet, waardoor songs soms pas herkend worden wanneer de titels passeren. Evergreens als “The Cuckoo”, “Trouble In Mind” en “House Of The Rising Sun”, die meerdere generaties roots-artiesten inspireerden om er hun draai aan te geven, krijgen nu misschien wel hun meest doldrieste of perverse uitvoeringen ooit, met passages die twijfelen tussen uitspattingen van kinderen die samen met opa losgelaten worden in de studio, en satanische rituelen met zieke stemmetjes en stuiterende bliepjes.

“Twinkle, Twinkle, Litte Star”. Miljoenen kinderen werden ermee in slaap gewiegd. Niet hier. Dit is de Poltergeist-versie, met Dowds zombievoordracht in een coalitie met een rudimentair ritme en spookybackings. Of “Rock Of Ages”, een combinatie van stompende hardrock en mislukt 80s experiment. En soms duiken er ritmes op, zoals in “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad”, die, mits een paar kleine aanpassingen, klaar zijn voor zweterige underground-fuiven, met Dowd als de hogepriester van het bacchanaal. Verder krijg je vooral zin om dit eens op te leggen wanneer je ouders passeren, want ook zij zijn ooit opgegroeid met songs als “Tom Dooley” (geen murder ballad die zo leutig klinkt) en het jolig walsende “Oh, My Darling, Clementine”.

Het wordt steeds moeilijker om nog iets nieuws te vertellen over Dowds oeuvre, dat intussen al twee decennia z’n eigenzinnige koers volgt, maar nu misschien verder dan ooit verwijderd is van wat conservatieve rootsliefhebbers verstaan onder hun geliefde genre. Kan wel zijn, maar tegelijkertijd ben je getuige van een onverschrokkenheid en daad van creativiteit die ook nu weer ontzag afdwingt. Artiesten als Dowd noemen we soms outsiders, de ongeleide projectielen, de luis in de pels, maar ze zijn meer dan dat. Het zijn de smaakmakers (ook al lijkt het soms smaakloos) en avonturiers, die net door hun baldadigheid nieuwe uithoeken en invullingen vinden, aantonen dat de traditie eindeloos verrijkt en vernieuwd kan worden van binnenuit.

Dowd speelt op 4 februari in de Rock Lobster (Antwerpen). Om een of andere reden heeft hij meer vrienden in Nederland. Daar speelt hij negen keer. Alle data zijn te vinden op de website.

 – Original article

Johnny Dowd

Twinkle, Twinkle

Guy Peters – photos: Kat Dalton – January 19, 2018

The fact that Johnny Dowd would not become an average musician was already confirmed at the time of his solo debut Wrong Side Of Memphis . Twenty years and a dozen studio albums later, you can actually speak of a total work that, more than an insight into the mind of an eternal outsider, is an extensive commentary on the song tradition. Admittedly with Twinkle, Twinkle as a new high point of alienation.

Partly this is due to the fact that man’s albums of band affairs have been thinned into solo exercises, with the focus gradually shifted from the classic combination of voice and guitar, to a form of bricolage art with rancid beats, pumping basses, endless effects. and the monotonously spewed sermons of an almost 70-year-old experimentalist. When That’s Your Wife On The Back Of My Horse (2015) reached a new level of knock-on dementia and craft drift, Execute American Folklore (2016) did a great job. And Twinkle, Twinkle goes even further, with the difference that Dowd this time on the public domain throws.

He has always done that, indirectly, with influences from folk, country, blues, spirituals and hymns, and the countless less and more explicit references that appeared on records and during concerts, but this time he brings interpretations of classics from the folk and related traditions that derail as radically as his own material. Eleven songs, most of which date from the early twentieth or even nineteenth century (and earlier), embraced by two own constructions. Of the latter, “Execute American Folklore, Again” is the transition with the previous album. That execute can be translated as “execute” and “execute” is not a coincidence. At Dowd it is always laziness between madness and bitter seriousness (although they are often very close to each other), quandary randomly scattered verses and one-liners. Prettling synths, Butthole Surfers guitar, kitschy effects, crazy vocals and other forms of musical mud throwing. And in the back “Job 17: 11-17”, with the verses in question that are to be pronounced as a resigned look back at a deathbed. But also: “Thank God it’s Friday.”

In between, eleven songs that are all filmed and vandalized. Rape that will hunt sensitive souls on rods. Melodies are thrown out or turned upside down, so that songs are sometimes only recognized when the titles pass.Evergreens like “The Cuckoo”, “Trouble In Mind” and “House Of The Rising Sun”, which inspired several generations of roots artists to turn it around, now get their most doldrieste (unbridled-Ed.) or perverse performances ever, with passages who doubt between the indiscretions of children who are released together with grandpa in the studio, and satanic rituals with sick voices and bouncing bleeps.

“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. Millions of children were lulled to sleep with them. Not here. This is the Poltergeist version, with Dowd’s zombie presentation in a coalition with a rudimentary rhythm and spooky backings. Or “Rock Of Ages”, a combination of punching hard rock and unsuccessful 80s experiment. And sometimes there are rhythms, like in “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad”, which, with a few minor adjustments, are ready for sweaty underground parties, with Dowd as the high priest of the Bacchanal. Furthermore, you especially want to impose this once your parents pass, because they also grew up with songs like “Tom Dooley” (no murder ballad that sounds so nice) and the jolly rolling “Oh, My Darling, Clementine” .

It is getting more and more difficult to tell something new about Dowd’s oeuvre, which has been following its own self-willed course for two decades, but is now perhaps more than ever removed from what conservative roots enthusiasts understand by their beloved genre. Can be, but at the same time you are witness to a fearlessness and act of creativity that again commands awe. Artists like Dowd are sometimes called outsiders, the unguided missiles, the louse in the fur, but they are more than that. It is the tastemakers (even though it sometimes seems tasteless) and adventurers, who find new corners and fillings just because of their bastardism, show that the tradition can be endlessly enriched and renewed from the inside.

Dowd plays on the 4th of February in the Rock Lobster (Antwerp). For some reason he has more friends in the Netherlands. There he plays nine times. All dates can be found on the website .

 – Translation by Google