Feeling Bad Tour @ The Band Room

Johnny Dowd (US) & Melle de Boer (NL) + Fawn

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.

Johnny Dowd (US) & Melle de Boer (NL) + Fawn website

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 to complete hattrick of Band Room shows on February 2 bill with Melle de Boer

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.

 – Original site

Terrel’s Tune-Up reviews Execute American Folklore


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
Sept. 23, 2016

* Execute American Folklore by Johnny Dowd. You might not hear any obvious similarities between The Handsome Family and Dowd, but both appeared in a wonderful 2003 documentary by musician Jim White called Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus.

Dowd, in fact, was touted as “alternative country” when his first album was released in the late ’90s. The first time I saw him live was at a party for No Depression magazine at the famed Austin honky-tonk the Broken Spoke.

But the only thing that sounds remotely country about Dowd on his last several albums is his Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, drawl.

This new album is much closer to hip-hop or electronica — though commercial radio stations devoted to those formats are no more likely to play this album than is your basic hot new country station. And some songs are infused with Latin touches (what might be described as a Martian mambo) or even metal. Truth be told, Johnny Dowd doesn’t really sound much like anyone but Johnny Dowd.

And I happen to love that sound. Here Dowd himself plays all the instruments — except the instrument named Anna Coogan, who sings background vocals on several songs and lead vocals on one. Dowd mostly speaks rather than sings his lyrics.

There are some doozies on Execute American Folklore. He dedicates the ultra funky “Last Laugh” to his mother, “a union maid if ever there was one.” In the song, however, his mom is a call girl. But the story, laced with Biblical imagery, actually deals with some bitter loser — lots of Dowd protagonists fall into this category — plotting unspecified revenge against those who have wronged him.

“Sexual Revolution” is not about the joy of sex. Dowd recites a tale of a frustrated man whose cheating wife leaves him in a sad world where “pornographic fantasies infect my brain, filling me up with guilt and shame.”

Then in the deceptively upbeat “Whiskey Ate My Brain,” the singer catalogs his physical and mental deterioration. “Cancer ate my liver, God’s an Indian giver … Cocaine ate my nose, I can’t smell the roses.”

Coogan steps out front in “Brains-a-flame,” which sounds like Dowd has been listening to the old Brazilian psychedelic Tropicália band Os Mutantes. She sings about her dream man who “chain-smokes my heart three packs a day/He’s like a bad habit who won’t go away.”

In the closing track, “A World Without Me,” built on the classic “Louie Louie”/”Hang on Sloopy” hook, Dowd muses about the fact that memories of his life will quickly fade.

But the song only makes me fantasize about archaeologists in a future century stumbling across a cache of Dowd albums, prompting them to write surreal theories about life in the early 21st century.

Some videos for yas

Here’s “Gold” from The Handsome Family. This one has some nice footage of East Central in Albuquerque.

Another favorite from Unseen
Here’s some live Johnny Dowd with his latest band The Sex Robots. (You might want to skip the first 20 seconds or so. Weird buzz before the song starts.) Despite what the YoutTube title says, this is “Whisky Ate My Brain.”

Anna Coogan steps out front with “Brains A Flame.”

And just for the heck of it, here’s the trailer for Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus.

 – Original Article


Editors note: 

Steve called it right-It’s Whiskey Ate My Brain on the Execute CD. But in our defense:


On the other hand, poor editing of the video has no excuse but ignorance. Any one want to lend a hand?