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!):

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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.

Live @ Koffie en Ambacht (review by Le Cri du Coyote)

 

 

TICKETS

 

 

The album of the moment, and probably of the year, is without a doubt Johnny Dowd’s. “Family Picnic” is – pardon my french – a splendid cubist portrait of forty years of American music. Let’s say Georges Braque with a Fender amp and a flask of whiskey. Is it really necessary to introduce Johnny Dowd ? Twenty years of activity and almost as many albums since “Wrong Side Of Memphis” in 1997. Now at 70, his energy seems intact. His sound cocktail, strong in taste, bitter on the palate, has not changed much since its inception. Just refined. Black humor (desperately black), funky riffs, bitter stories and mixing styles like crazy. On this new album, he succeeds in synthesizing all this and even more, twisting his own songs in all directions, with often a simple rhythm Bo Diddleybox as backbone, slashed by raw guitars and distorted organs. Somewhere at the crossroads, in the good company of Alan Vega, Captain Beefheart, Bo Diddley and Jim Thompson. It is, indeed, the author of “The Killer Inside Me” that comes to mind. For the gall, this almost medical description of the conjugal self-pity, for the miserable and frustrated trajectories of characters that Johnny invites us to observe, with some assumed and wicked voyeurism. This angle, the vision of a troubled America, mixed with blues roots, tribal rock and poisoned hymns, is definitely his signature. And it is simply unique in today’s music territory. By his side, long-time companions Kim Sherwood-Caso or Michael Edmondson add some blinking christmas tree lights to the crime scene. Ice on this cake : Dowd has fun, in a Bob Dylan’s punky fashion, while methodically dissecting one of his standards to the bone (“Thomas Dorsey”, featured on Hellwood’s album, shared with Jim White, another rare bird). It’s wobbly & wonky, the antithesis of easy-listening, it itches and it stings. Let’s take “Four Gray Walls” : Just picture the end of some unlikely festival, and on the main stage, a stubborn tipsy tramp is refusing to let go off the microphone and the guitar, stolen from the headlining fancy star, that is actually snoring since long in the clean sheets of the best local hotel. There you have it – sort of. It’s vivid and rotten at the same time, it’s shaking and intriguing, unlike the vast majority of nowadays productions. Johnny is a hero. Johnny is on a European tour this spring. No date in France. Of course. But who can say no to a weekend in one of our many neighboring & friendly countries of this beautiful – and wobbly as well – Europe ?

— Dyl Dylan, Le Cri du Coyote (France)

 

 

How I Wonder What You Are

New Album

                                    Samples from the album  here

Red River Valley , that’s the name of the new Johnny Dowd album ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ that will be in stores on January 12th. According to the press release it is a playful album with recognizable tunes.

More info about the release can be found on ‘s mans website . Dowd is back on track with Melle De Boer at his side. That brings him eight times to the Netherlands, but Belgium this time (for the time being) left. So keep an eye on it.

  – Original article

The twinkle of Johnny Dowd is finished with his seventeenth (!) Solo album.

In his newsletter, the man announced that ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ became the title of the successor of ‘ Execute American Folklore ‘, which was published last year. The album appears on its own Mother Jinx label in December.

Dowd said the following about the development process: “I thought it was going to be my most important inside record, but at some point it would go on and on.”

Then there is an American tour as support act of Pere Ubu before he goes down to Europe. And that all promises to be “a little different”, but more details in that regard are not yet known.

 September 25, 2017                                                                    Patrick Van Gestel
 

Ithaca’s finest singer-songwriter Johnny Dowd has a new record coming up. Twinkle, Twinkle is a collection of public domain songs, It is being mixed and will be released in January.

He will be on tour in the UK and The Netherlands in January and February to promote the release. He will be sharing he bill with Dutch musician Melle de Boer. They named it the Going Down the Road Feeling Bad Tour.
– Original article

Been fun watching the album progress, not to mention Kat Dalton’s photos illustrating that progression. We re-present, in the original order:

Good stuff happening in Dowdsville.

“Twinkle, Twinkle” is finished. I thought it was going to be my most inside record, but at some point it leapt the fence and took on a life of its own. It will be released on my label in January.

All for now.

Johnny’s new album, ”Twinkle, Twinkle,” will be released on January 12, 2018.

From the press release by Del Day (Ark PR):

”Wonderfully playful, yet bursting with creative juices, ’Twinkle, Twinkle’ is an album only Dowd would be brave enough to make. These are tunes we all know—tunes we hum, sing-along to at parties, solid bricks in the pantheon of American song—yet you’d be forgiven for thinking that you are hearing all of them for the first time given Dowd’s startling interpretations. Against a backdrop of scathing synths and menacing beats, tracks like ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ and ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ adorn entirely different guises. ‘Trouble In Mind,’ originally recorded as a jazz song in 1924, here broods like some kind of long-forgotten Tom Waits song remixed by Burial, whilst ‘St James Infirmary Blues’ plays out as a soundtrack to Dowd’s dark and inquisitive mind.”  

Above is one of the tracks for you to enjoy right now, “Red River Valley.“

The Euro tour starts on January 25. Tour schedule here.

Check out the latest Euro tour dates on the Tours page. Johnny will have his new album, ”Twinkle, Twinkle,” for sale at the shows. It will also be available at this site starting January 12, as well as digitally at all the usual outlets.

A CD release show is scheduled in Ithaca, New York, at The Dock, on February 17. Special guests are Anna Coogan, Kim Sherwood-Caso, and Tzar.

Execute American Folklore Tour – Week 3 and Then Some

We weren’t there (tragedy!), so all photos courtesy of Mike,Anna,Park and various Facebook Friends. Kinda in order, maybe not, but you get the picture…

First and often, the band steals it’s own soul,selfie-style:

And always, you gotta get from here to there:

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Then Johnny Dowd and the Sex Robots Rock the House:

For down time, we have:

Posers

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Camels:

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Cops:

Tourists:

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And lots and lots of sitting around:

Eventually, though, Real Life intrudes, flying everybody home:

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