THE TOP 40 MOST DEPRESSING ALBUMS
- by Kevin Orton 25 Apr 2019
The first song on Pictures from Life’s Other Side is a little jarring to the sensibilities.
Actually, all the songs are jarring in one way or another, but that first song is just plain unpleasant. The image that comes to mind is of Nick Cave sitting in on a session with Morphine and something going terribly wrong. Luckily, I persevered and waited for track number-two. From then on, I was hooked.
Track number-two, titled “Worried Mind,” and featuring a chorus lifted from Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya,” is pure, sinister listening pleasure. Johnny Dowd is funny, scary, and ultimately, highly entertaining. His musical arrangements are inventive, occasionally hypnotic, even sensual… let’s see, what other adjectives can I throw in here? I’ll say this. Try slow-dancing to “Worried Mind” by candlelight and see if you don’t have some kind of epiphany.
Johnny Dowd is like the Hal Ketchum of the current indie scene. You may recall that Ketchum broke through as a country music recording artist only after a much less visible career in construction or roofing or some such. Similarly, Dowd was in the army and then worked as a furniture mover for many of his fifty-one years, although since he released his first album, Wrong Side of Memphis, which showed up on a number of critics’ Ten Best lists for 1998, he might be able to hire someone to move his furniture now.
Dowd writes his own songs, and given the nature of these tunes, it’s no surprise that he gets a lot of press as some kind of weirdo. Jason Ankeny, a critic for the All-Music Guide, described Dowd’s work as “sick, twisted… and genuinely horrifying.” (see full review below-Ed.) I don’t know if it’s all that. It’s what rock and roll should be: pushing the edge of the envelope. As Dowd himself has said, “a few times I lost the faith, but I’m still a true believer in the power of music. Rock-n-roll is my religion.”
In “The Girl Who Made Me Sick,” Dowd sings “You have a dirty, dirty mind; you got a missionary smile. It’s a strange combination; it drove me crazy after a while.” I wonder if this qualifies as projection, psychologically speaking?
I should mention that Kim Sherwood-Caso’s backing vocals are perfect on this album.
Overall, Pictures from Life’s Other Side rates a Groovy Factor of Four out of Five, which means I’d go out and buy it right now if I wasn’t lucky enough to already own it.
AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny
If there was even the tiniest bit of comfort to be wrung from Johnny Dowd‘s singularly disturbing debut album, Wrong Side of Memphis, it was that the record’s stark, homespun tales of murder, misery, and malice seemed light years removed from reality, evoking a backwoods dementia so completely over the top it often threatened to veer into the ridiculous. Pictures from Life’s Other Side ups the ante considerably: Complete with full-band backing, crisp production, and a broader musical spectrum, the effect is much more chilling, as within this more conventional framework, Dowd‘s obsessions manifest themselves in new and sinister ways, cloaking his fixations and fetishes behind the subterfuge of a suspiciously listenable blend of country, blues, and pop. Where Wrong Side of Memphis immediately revealed itself as the ravings of a madman, Pictures from Life’s Other Side is much sneakier — at first glance, “Hope You Don’t Mind” appears to be a heart-wrenching ballad of unrequited love, but on closer inspection the object of the middle-aged Dowd‘s affection is a schoolgirl; likewise, the hauntingly atmospheric “No Woman’s Flesh But Hers” is a testament to undying love, in this case a husband’s pledge to his comatose wife. Sick, twisted, and undeniably compelling, Pictures from Life’s Other Sidedelivers where countless shock rock and gangsta rap records fall short, capturing a musical vision that’s genuinely disquieting.
Still shooting for that Number One spot with his latest release Family Picnic:
johnny dowd family picnic
Johnny Dowd debuteerde zo’n dertig jaar geleden met een donker Americana-album, Wrong Side of Memphis, en met Family Picnic keert hij terug naar die rootsrock omgeving. De teksten hebben nog steeds die zwarte humor, luister maar eens naar het portret dat hij van een familie neerzet in de titelsong van dit album, daar zou je niet vrolijk van worden, als hij het niet zo grappig formuleerde. En dat is eigenlijk ook waarom ik een zwak heb voor deze Amerikaanse singer/songwriter – hij is grappig en werkt op mijn lachspieren, ook met een nummer als Let’s Have a Party, waarbij ik echt onweerstaanbaar in de lach schiet, hoe knullig die drums ook mogen klinken, of misschien wel juist daarom. Hij opent overigens met een heel lekkere instrumental, Hoodoo, die je meteen in de stemming brengt voor goede moordballades en liedjes over andere ellende.
Johnny Dowd is inmiddels zeventig en laat zich begeleiden door twee muzikanten waar hij vaker mee samenwerkte, Michael Edmondson en Kim Sherwood-Caso, en dat werkt perfect. Een perfect Americana-album. Mis de tournee niet die Dowd begin 2019 naar Europa brengt.
Luister hier naar een paar fragmenten:
Johnny Dowd made his debut some thirty years ago with a dark Americana album, Wrong Side of Memphis, and with Family Picnic he returns to that roots rock environment. The lyrics still have that black humor, just listen to the portrait he puts down from a family in the title song of this album, you wouldn’t be happy if he didn’t put it that funny. And that is actually why I have a weakness for this American singer / songwriter – he is funny and works on my muscles, also with a song like Let’s Have a Party , in which I really laugh irresistibly, no matter how silly those drums are. may sound, or perhaps precisely because of that. Incidentally, he opens with a very tasty instrumental, Hoodoo, which immediately gets you in the mood for good murder ballads and songs about other misery.
Johnny Dowd is now seventy and is accompanied by two musicians with whom he has collaborated more often, Michael Edmondson and Kim Sherwood-Caso, and that works perfectly. A perfect Americana album.
– translation by Google