Als twee mensen lang genoeg graven komen ze elkaar uiteindelijk tegen. Johnny Dowd en Melle de Boer graven al jaren tunnels in de menselijke ziel. Als Orpheusen dalen ze af in de onderwereld en nemen met gevaar voor eigen leven de mooiste dingen mee naar boven. Nu komen die tunnels samen. December 2017 komt Johnny Dowd uit met een album met zijn interpretaties van Amerikaanse Folk klassiekers. Liedjes als: Going Down the Road, St. James Infirmary, Tom Dooley, Oh my Darling Clementine. Het zijn Traditionals, de basis van de Amerikaanse muziek. Johnny en Melle zullen ze bijna onherkenbaar brengen. Niet oubollig, maar zoals ze nu moeten klinken, actueel, vol ziel, elektriciteit en noodzakelijkheid. Ze spiegelen een directe reactie op de huidige Amerikaanse samenleving, met alle spanningen en onzekerheden die daarbij denkbaar zijn.
Melle de Boer brengt begin 2018 een album uit. Een solo album heel dichtbij zichzelf. Dit album wordt opgenomen op zijn zolder. Eenzelfde zolder als waarnaar de vader van Melle vertrok na zijn scheiding. Op die zolder wonen spoken. Spoken die liedjes fluisteren. Johnny en Melle gaan touren door Nederland. Ze spelen hun liedjes. Oude liedjes, nieuwe liedjes. Geen suf singer-songwriter avondje maar elektrisch, chaotisch, hard en lelijk, zacht en mooi. Alleen en samen. Ze combineren hun volstrekt eigen werelden om een onvergetelijk, maar vooral uniek optreden te verzorgen. Johnny neemt zijn gitarist Mike Edmondson mee. Hij zorgt voor een gedegen slaggitaar waar Johnny al zijn gekte en chaos in kwijt kan. Mike zingt ook mee. Melle wordt bijgestaan door Suzanne Ypma. Zij heeft samen met Melle zijn nieuwe album opgenomen. Suzanne is van de elektropop. De synthesizer heeft een belangrijke rol in het nieuwe album.
Johnny Dowd wordt al tijden een van de laatst overgebleven échte folk originals genoemd. ‘Dowd is misschien niet naar de vorm, maar wel naar de geest een late volgeling van de vooroorlogse blueszangers’ NRC 2001. Johnny Dowd (geboren 29 maart 1948 in Fort Worth, Texas) is een Amerikaanse alt country musicus uit Ithaca, New York. Typisch voor zijn stijl zijn experimentele, luidruchtige, pauzes in zijn liedjes en sterke gotische (in de zin van duistere en sombere) elementen in de liedjes en in de muziek. Er is ook een sterke onderstroom van zwarte humor en het absurde in zijn werk. Als singer-songwriter wordt zijn muziek vergeleken met de muziek van Tom Waits, Nick Cave en Captain Beefheart.
MELLE DE BOER
Vanaf 2001 is Melle bezig met het duiden van zijn ‘Amerikaanse’ muziek.Zijn band Smutfish, opgericht in 1999, heeft sinds het debuutalbum ‘Lawnmower Mind’ een omvangrijk oeuvre opgebouwd en bij verschillende platenmaatschappijen 5 cd’s opgenomen. Door optredens op onder andere Noorderslag, SXSW in Austin, Texas, de Popkomm in Berlijn en het Reeperbahn festival in Hamburg, heeft de band veel getourd door Nederland en Europa. Ook noemenswaardig is de tour met Daniel Johnston in 2007 en 2008. In 2015 vond de release van het album “Trouble” plaats bij het toonaangevende Nederlandse label Excelsior Recordings. De daaruitvolgende tour langs filmhuizen maakte duidelijk dat door tekeningen toe te voegen aan de muziek, de teksten beter begrepen werden, zodoende werd er een extra dimensie aan een optreden toegevoegd.
When two people dig long enough, they eventually meet each other. Johnny Dowd and Melle de Boer have been digging tunnels in the human soul for years. As Orpheusen they descend into the underworld and with danger to their own lives bring out the most beautiful things. Now those tunnels come together. December 2017 Johnny Dowd comes out with an album with his interpretations of American Folk classics. Songs like: Going Down the Road, St. James Infirmary, Tom Dooley, Oh my Darling Clementine. They are Traditionals, the basis of American music. Johnny and Melle will bring them almost unrecognizable. Not quaint, but as they should sound now, current, full of soul, electricity and necessity. They mirror a direct reaction to current American society, with all the tensions and uncertainties that are conceivable in this respect.
Melle de Boer will release an album in early 2018. A solo album very close to itself. This album is recorded in his attic. The same attic as the father of Melle left after his divorce.Ghosts live in that attic. Ghosts that whisper songs. Johnny and Melle are going to tour the Netherlands. They play their songs. Old songs, new songs. Not a dull singer-songwriter night but electric, chaotic, hard and ugly, soft and beautiful. Alone and together. They combine their completely individual worlds to provide an unforgettable, but especially unique, performance. Johnny takes his guitarist Mike Edmondson with him. He provides a solid percussion guitar that Johnny can put all his craziness and chaos into. Mike also sings along. Melle is assisted by Suzanne Ypma. She has recorded his new album together with Melle. Suzanne is from the electropop. The synthesizer has an important role in the new album.
Johnny Dowd has been known as one of the last remaining real folk originals. ‘Dowd may not be in the form, but in spirit a late follower of the pre-war blues singers’ NRC 2001. Johnny Dowd (born March 29, 1948 in Fort Worth, Texas) is an American alto country musician from Ithaca, New York. Typical for his style are experimental, noisy, pauses in his songs and strong gothic (in the sense of dark and sombre) elements in the songs and in music. There is also a strong undercurrent of black humor and the absurdity in his work.As a singer-songwriter his music is compared with the music of Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Captain Beefheart.
MELLE DE BOER
Since 2001 Melle has been interpreting his ‘American’ music. His band Smutfish, founded in 1999, has built up an extensive body of work since the debut album ‘Lawnmower Mind’ and recorded 5 CDs at various record companies. Through performances at, among others, Noorderslag, SXSW in Austin, Texas, the Popkomm in Berlin and the Reeperbahn festival in Hamburg, the band has toured a lot through the Netherlands and Europe. Also noteworthy is the tour with Daniel Johnston in 2007 and 2008. In 2015 the release of the album “Trouble” took place at the leading Dutch label Excelsior Recordings. The ensuing tour of film houses made it clear that by adding drawings to the music, the texts were better understood, so an extra dimension to a performance was added.
– Translation by Google
Tonight we’re delighted to welcome back the great Johnny Dowd who returns to the venue he was born to play en route for Tilburg (NL) to complete an early hat-trick of Band Room shows. We think of Dowd, a US Army veteran who served in Berlin, as the missing link between Keith Richards, Captain Beefheart and The Handsome Family. Others imagine him no less theatrically. “If Nicolas Cage were playing Nick Cave, he’d sing like Johnny Dowd”, said John Aizlewood in The Guardian.
Fawn – rising stars of the York scene – will open the show. If two people mine the same territory long enough, they’ll eventually meet. Johnny Dowd and cult Dutch singer Melle de Boer have been digging deep into the human soul for a long time. Like Orpheus, they go down into the underworld and surface to make beautiful songs about their discoveries. Now their journeys are coming together in a collaborative performance like no other.
They are touring Europe as a double bill in January and February 2018, playing songs old and new. It won’t be a sleepy singer-songwriter night. It will be electric, chaotic, hard and ugly, soft and beautiful. They’ll combine their individual stories to provide a new, unforgettable, unique performance.
They’ll each do a set of their own songs, then perform a set of unconventionally interpreted traditional songs together. Behind the music will be visuals, drawings, photos. Johnny Dowd will be joined by Mike Edmondson (vocals, guitar), while Melle de Boer will be accompanied by Suzanne Ypma (vocals, drums, synthesizer).
Both Dowd and de Boer are releasing new albums. De Boer comes to terms with his parents’ separation, while Johnny does his inimitable take on old American songs. Both albums are traditional, but not corny. They crackle with electricity.
For background on Dowd, this is the most perceptive review we’ve ever seen of his work – the album in question Temporary Shelter (2000), the reviewer John Aizlewood in The Guardian:
Should you ever find yourself needing to move house within the environs of Ithaca, a quiet New York state town, you might be tempted to call upon the respected services of the Zolar Moving Co (“We stand behind our reputation. Ask your neighbor”), established in 1978. Perhaps you would receive the personal attention of Zolar’s craggy, 52-year-old Texan co-owner John Dowd. Perhaps, if you bonded over the sideboards and wardrobes, he might let you into his little secret.
Like many of his generation, Dowd was drafted into the army, albeit to serve in Berlin rather than Vietnam. On discharge, he embraced hedonism, married (and divorced a fortnight later), travelled and slipped into respectability before the gutter took him for ever. In 1997, Johnny Dowd began to make records.
Temporary Shelter, his third album, was mostly recorded in Ithaca. Self-produced and partly engineered by Dave Hinkle, Zolar’s other owner, it is based around the notion of memory or, as Dowd expands, “the story of my life as I remember it”. It is probably mostly lies and jokes – he’s certainly taken the insurance policy of formally noting that his characters are fictitious – but that’s hardly the point: as with all the best fiction, it feels true.
Dowd’s music is from everywhere yet nowhere. His previous albums, 1998’s Wrong Side of Memphis, and Pictures From Life’s Other Side a year later, were mistakenly perceived as alt.country, albeit with a Raymond Carver-esque twist. Although Dowd has found his metier with Temporary Shelter, the brooding ingredients were already in place. “Be content with your life,” he warned in Wrong Side of Memphis’s Thanksgiving Day, “it may not get any better.”
Dowd’s is the dark, mistrustful side of Americana. Those who inhabit his tumbleweed songs – the abused child as adult in Angel Eyes, the washed-up surfer of Big Wave, the oppressive parents and disturbed children of Sky Above Mud Below – “momma talks to Jesus, I wonder if she ever mentions me” – are not so much cracked caricatures that could be filmed by David Lynch as crushed ordinary folk who have long been beaten by life, whether they know it or not.
Golden Rule is par for the lyrical course. Dowd growls his way through the saga of a borderline bum trying to bed a married woman whose husband “puts his hand between your legs: it makes you sick”. He offers to “take you to a motel with a TV and a pool”, promises to share his bottle of whisky with her and reminds her that “nothing comes from nothing is my philosophy”. Dowd neglects to mention how this grubby tale ends, but not, you’d suspect, happily ever after. Who says chivalry belongs to a more courtly past?
His voice is an extraordinary thing; part croak, occasionally country twang, but always tremulous. Not unreasonably, Tom Waits is the laziest comparison, but Dowd is how Nicolas Cage might sing, if playing Nick Cave. And on the deeply unhappy Planet Happiness, Dowd echoes himself, pre-empting each line of each verse. “I have always followed the religion of mental hygiene,” he explains forebodingly, twice. “I won’t touch a woman who does not keep herself clean.”
If it weren’t such a typically accessible but unsettling song, and if the conviction that Dowd is not being autobiographical didn’t hold (it only just does), it would be creepy. You can almost feel the mainstream beginning to blush.
As with all secure leaders, Dowd picks and retains superior henchfolk without fear of being usurped. His rumblings are leavened by frequent duettist Kim Sherwood-Caso’s crystal clear, detached tones. She sugar-coats Dowd’s icebergs and is devastating on her solo vocal showcase, the wintry inverted carol that is Death Comes Knocking, quietly declaring that “when death comes calling you won’t hear a sound”.
Justin Asher’s pounding but sombre keyboards establish a funereal pace across the whole album, while Brian Wilson’s drums and his unusually low basslines provide all the backbone Dowd needs.
Musically, there is a ghostly blues sensibility tucked in beneath the Hank Williamsy desolation, as well as a distinctly un-American Weillian seam to both the lengthy opener, Stumble and Fall, and the melodically circular Hideaway. But Dowd’s hybrid is his own.
Where he can take this from here – after all, there is a successful removal firm to consider – is anybody’s guess, but right now that matters not a jot. What a record.
Ticket price: £ 12.50
Please note early booking is recommended as The Band Room’s capacity is only 100. You can buy tickets securely on-line or by cheque – and prices include postage and administrative costs. There is no additional booking fee. Please email us further information.
JOHNNY Dowd is to play The Band Room, Low Mill, Farndale, on the North York Moors for a third time, on this occasion with Dutch singer Melle de Boer on February 2 on their Down The Road Feeling Bad Tour.
“A US Army veteran – he served in Berlin, not Vietnam – Johnny has a removal business in Ithaca, New York, and didn’t cut his first record until he was 50,” says Band Room promoter Nigel Burnham. “We saw him in York twice, first at the Duchess…with 12 other people. The following year we saw him at the old Fibbers, where he still drew an audience of less than 30.
“We thought we could do better than that and he has indeed attracted bigger crowds here and gone down a storm at his previous two Band Room shows. Now he returns to the venue he was born to play, en route for Tilburg, to complete an early hat-trick of Band Room shows.”
Welcoming Dowd back to the North York Moors, Burnham says: “I think of Johnny as the missing link between Captain Beefheart’s genius, Tom Waits’ eccentricity and Keith Richards’ charisma. Brett Sparks, of The Handsome Family, is a big fan of Dowd’s guitar playing, and it isn’t just me and Brett. Others imagine him no less theatrically.”
Dowd is touring Europe in a double bill with cult Dutch singer Melle de Boer, digging deep into the human soul in songs old and new. “It won’t be a sleepy singer-songwriter night,” says Burnham. “It will be electric, chaotic, hard and ugly, soft and beautiful. They’ll combine their individual stories to provide a new, unforgettable, unique performance.
“They’ll each do a set of their own songs, then perform a set of unconventionally interpreted traditional songs together. Behind the music will be visuals, drawings, photos. Johnny will be joined by Mike Edmondson, on vocals and guitar, while Melle de Boer will be accompanied by Suzanne Ypma, on vocals, drums and synthesiser.”
Both Dowd and de Boer are releasing new albums. “Johnny does his inimitable take on old American songs while de Boer comes to terms with his parents’ separation. Both albums are traditional, but not corny. They crackle with electricity,” says Burnham.
Dowd’s Twinkle, Twinkle is out on Friday on Mother Jinx Records, featuring such tracks as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, House Of The Rising Sun, Going Down The Road Feeling Bad, Executive American Folklore, Again and Red River Valley. Details for de Boer’s record are elusive, however.
Fawn, rising stars of the York scene, will open the 7.30pm gig; tickets are on sale at thebandroom.co.uk.
If memory serves me right it was sometime around 2007 that I first heard Johnny Dowd. I can’t remember anyone’s birthday but I’m usually reasonably accurate when it comes to music. A friend had copies of the Temporary Shelter and Cemetery Shoes albums. What I heard was a brilliantly strange mix of dark, brooding Americana, absurdist humour and musical ingenuity. Like a cross between Nick Cave, Tom Waits and those early Smog albums.
There was a back-catalogue to get stuck into and a string of brilliant, increasingly experimental new albums to absorb but would I ever get to see the self-confessed ultra-scary troubadour play live? He played Sheffield once but I missed it. Then he popped up in a barn on the North York Moors, miles from anywhere. Tonight though, Johnny Dowd has finally made it to The Brudenell Social Club. Part of the collaborative Going Down the Road Feeling Bad tour with Dutch singer-songwriter Melle De Boer.
The Community Room at the Brudenell seemed unusually sparse but that didn’t seem to matter with the arrival of Catalonia’s Joana Serrat. Bathed in light that made everything look a little like the Roadhouse in Twin Peaks (you’ll know what I mean if you’re a fan), Serrat was captivating from the start. Playing an acoustic and accompanied by her brother on drums Serrat played a set of gentle dream-pop including cuts from last year’s Dripping Springs LP.
Serrat’s songwriting is rooted in Americana but delivered through a hazy, reverb-soaked filter. At the centre sits Serrat’s voice; clear, purposeful and soothing. It isn’t really indicative of the acts to follow but Serrats set is spellbinding nonetheless.
The name Melle De Boer had somehow managed to elude me but that’s all about to change. An imposingly tall figure, De Boer takes to the stage with multi-instrumentalist Suzanne Ypma for a set of raw, twisted and charismatic Americana. Much like Johnny Dowd, De Boer takes his traditional influences and stretches them into new and wonderfully strange shapes. One minute he’s Johnny Cash delivering a murder ballad to some Folsom prison inmates, the next he’s on his knees engulfed by feedback.
Ypma is much more than your standard multi-instrumentalist, jumping up and down and throwing everything she has into tribal percussion, electronics and off-kilter guitar accompaniment. She looks like she’s having the time of her life, laughing when her enthusiasm leads to a couple of broken drum sticks.
De Boer and Ympa completely own the stage and deserve our full attention but not everyone’s playing ball. When De Boer spots a couple happily chatting through his set he mischievously holds out the microphone and invites them to have a go. Then, completely deadpan, he introduces the next song as a song about killing his mother. “I did five years” he says “just so you know”. Don’t mess with Melle De Boer, kids.
Joined on stage by regular collaborators Anna Coogan and Mike Edmondson, Johnny Dowd starts his set with some spoken-word and a wall of noise. Happily taking a sledgehammer to any pre-conceptions you might have had about an artist frequently labelled as Americana. They quickly follow this with the twisted carnival sounds of ‘Empty Purse’ and the ridiculous filthy fun of ‘White Dolemite’. The latter introduced by Dowd yelling, “where are the laaaaddddies?”
You might have come to sit through some solemn ballads but Dowd and his band have come to party. Songs like ‘Whiskey Ate My Brain’ show just how well the trio work together; locking into a groove as Dowd pulls every bit of noise he can out of his guitar. It’s noisy, robotic funk of the highest calibre. The funkalicious ‘Freddie’ is rewritten and introduced as ‘I Ate Leeds for Lunch’ while an unexpected cover of Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Smile’ seems particularly wonderful when surrounded by songs about whiskey, death and sex. Humour, as always, is important to Dowd.
His latest album, Twinkle Twinkle, finds him tackling some Americana classics and we’re treated to a number of them tonight. As you’d expect, everything is filtered through Dowd’s unique style. Sharing vocal duties with Coogan, the bands versions of ‘St James Infirmary’ and ‘Red River Valley’ breathe new life into these frequently covered compositions. They also play a particularly beautiful rendition of ‘Wayfaring Stranger’.
At one point De Boer and Ypma come back on stage for a big, communal sing along to the likes of ‘Tom Dooley’ and ‘Oh, My Darling Clementine’. Attempts to get the crowd to join in, frustratingly, have varying degrees of success but a particularly dark song about a car wreck on a highway finally gets everyone singing along. Come on Leeds, it’s Johnny Dowd!
It’s been a really great show from top-to-bottom; from Serrat’s dream-pop (Dowd describes them as “the Spanish Carpenters”) through De Boer and Dowd’s dark, unique, take on Americana. If you get a chance to catch this tour while it’s out on Joana SerratJthe road then I really can’t recommend it enough. After the show I chat to Edmondson at the merch stall and explain, like the rabid fan I am, how long I’ve waited for them to play Leeds. Here’s hoping they come back soon.
JOHNNY DOWD’s “Twinkle, Twinkle” is the Uncut Magazine Americana album of the month! Johnny along with Melle De Boer and new Loose Musicsigning Joana Serrat will open Ffar Festival on Thurs 1st Feb at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds.
If two people mine the same territory long enough, they’ll eventually meet. Johnny Dowd and Melle de Boer have been digging deep into the human soul for a long time. Like Orpheus, they go to the underworld and make beautiful songs about their journeys. Now their journeys are coming together in a collaborative performance.
Johnny will be joined by Mike Edmondson (vocals, guitar), and Melle will be joined by Suzanna Ypma (vocals, drums, synthesizer). They’ll each do a set of their own songs, then together they will perform a set of traditional songs interpreted in an unconventional way. Behind the music will be visuals—drawings, photos. It won’t be a sleepy singer-songwriter night. It will be electric, chaotic, hard and ugly, soft and beautiful. They’ll combine their individual stories to provide a new, unforgettable, and unique performance.
They are both releasing new albums. Melle comes to terms with his parents’ separation, and Johnny does his unique take on old American songs. Both albums are traditional, but not corny. Full of electricity and necessity.
Special guest support from new Loose Music signing Joana Serrat
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