Live in vicinity of Haverhill, MA? On March 7 Americana outsider Johnny Dowd plays an intimate show in someone’s house. Inquiries via email. with any luck he might play some of the stuff he is working on for his next album.
03/06 Marlboro, NY @ The Falcon & The Falcon Underground
Johnny Dowd is messng around in the studio, reinventing himself again for his next album, the follow-up for Family Picni. Technology and rock ‘will meet and weird and wonderful things could happen as part of the process:
Working on some new stuff — going in a whole new direction. Samples and heavy drum machine. Somewhere between brilliant and total self-indulgence. At the same time, I’m working with buddy Mike Edmondson on some straight-up rock songs. Can I put the two together? My point is, I’m still cranking it and chasing the dream — or my own ass. Whichever comes first.
HCTF’s annual list of the 20 albums that will be in regular rotation for
many years to come. As per usual many genres are represented. This blog covers a lot of ground and it shows in this eclectic, final tally.
Today: final countdown from number 5 to 1.
Please shop at your local record store, buy directly from the artist, attend live shows. Don’t block anyone’s view with with your phone (better still, switch it off altogether). Shut the fuck up while the band is playing. Educate your friends. Word-of-mouth can’t be beat as the prime source to discover new music.
2 Johnny Dowd: Family Picnic
A prime example of mastering chaos and turning it into art.
Family Picnic rambles and rocks, like a machine on the verge of breaking down, with Dowd’s ragged delivery seemingly barely keeping it together. But first impressions can be deceptive. Dowd knows exactly what he is doing and what will work and what will fuck things up in a good way. Take the singalong quality of Conway Twitty, a live favourite for years is presented in what appears to be a one-take wonder format – it’s that spontaneous. The title track is a depiction of family get together told in a husky spoken word way, during which he points at all the six-packs that people brought in were consumed as thing started falling apart. Back End of Spring is abrasive and foreboding, almost like a piece of musique concrète. Stuck-up Christians will frown at Thomas Dorsey, a twisted but heartfelt tribute to the father of black gospel music.
At seventy Dowd shows no signs of aging gracefully. He is without peers in his field, but his friends and fans are willing to put up with whatever he comes up with. Luckily enough, putting out a shit album is beyond his grasp. Family Picnic caters to the converted and there is nothing wrong with that. He is an incurable maverick, who is just too weird for the MOR Americana crowd to appreciate.
I reviewed just over 50 albums for Americana Highways since July. The following represents my favorite records out of those 50 reviews: record of the year, top ten after that, and all the rest listed for reference.
7. Family Picnic by Johnny Dowd
Zoom in close to a rose bush and all you see is thorns. Although twisted and hidden beauty still exists within the plant. Welcome to the music of Johnny Dowd in all its thorny beauty. For over thirty years Dowd has been taken the unexpected path, an iconoclast with few mates. Family Picnic, Dowd’s 2019 release, finds Johnny tilling the soil of unrequited love, murder, and characters struggling to live a twisted American dream. As Dowd sings album closer Thomas Dorsey, “I sing songs of lust and depravity, that’s the only kind of songs come out of me.” Electronic beats, keyboard flourish, and what Johnny deems “ice-cream chords” drive a record composed of waltzes, shuffles, and boom-chuck rhythms. Dowd shifts between his bent-but-not-broke singing voice and a spoken word approach that succeeds where lesser artist would be chastised for “trying to rap”. REVIEW: Johnny Dowd’s “Family Picnic”
JOHNNY DOWD BRINGS “FAMILY PICNIC” TO EUROPE IN APRIL
Thirty years on from his remarkable, indescribably dark and damn right startling Americana debut Wrong Side Of Memphis, Ithaca, NY, legend Johnny Dowd returns to the roots rock arena with Family Picnic, his new album set for release on March 1st through Mother Jinx Records.
Over the last thirty years, Dowd has been releasing records that defy trends, a unique catalogue of work that stands head and shoulders above many of his lauded contemporaries. Now in his seventieth year on God’s good earth, Dowd has lost none of the vigour, enthusiasm, and attitude that has seen him forge his position as one of America’s most inquisitive musical minds, a musical explorer who has charted expeditions to genre-defying destinations that, at their heart, question, challenge, and dissect in their own way notions of the American Dream. Family Picnic — once again featuring long-time cohorts Michael Edmondson and Kim Sherwood -Caso – is the first time Dowd has really looked backwards in all that time, instead of plunging forward into a sonic unknown with the playfulness of a child.
As Dowd says himself: “I had to dig pretty deep for this one. Not sure how many more tunes I have in me. Tick tock. This record took an unexpected turn to the past — my past. It’s kind of like Wrong Side of Memphis 30 years down the road. Surprisingly little has changed for me (emotionally, that is). I’m still drawn to the same themes — unrequited love, murder, general foolishness. Waltzes and shuffles and boom chuck beats abound. Ice cream chord changes. Plus Kim Sherwood -Caso – and Mike Edmondson. What’s not to like? An Americana classic, if I do say so myself.”
With Family PicnicJohnny Dowd will be touring Europe in April:
Johnny Dowd debuted about thirty years ago with a dark Americana album, Wrong Side or Memphis, and with Family Picnic he returns to that roots rock environment. The lyrics still have that black humor, just listen to the portrait of a family in the title song of this album, that would not make you happy, if he did not put it so funny. And that is actually why I have a weakness for this American singer / songwriter – he is funny and works on my laughter muscles, also with a song like Let’s Have a Party , where I really laugh irresistibly, how clunky those drums also may sound, or maybe that’s why. He opens with a very nice instrumental, Hoodoo, which immediately puts you in the mood for good murder ballads and songs about other misery.
Johnny Dowd is now seventy and is accompanied by two musicians he worked with more often, Michael Edmondson and Kim Sherwood-Caso, and that works perfectly. A perfect Americana album. Do not miss the tour that brings Dowd to Europe in early 2019.
UPDATE FROM JOHNNY’S SITE: Michael Edmondson and I are gearing up to cross the Atlantic with a whole passel of new tunes, along with some oldies and a couple of great covers. I’ll be bringing my buddy Park Doing to open for some of the shows. He’s wackier than I am, if you can believe that. The new record, “Family Picnic,” will be available March 1— at all the usual digital outlets and on CD at my site and on tour. Buy it!
The new Johnny Dowd record is still a work in progress, but so far everything is going as planned and it should be available next Spring:
Headed into the studio yesterday to put the icing on the cake — that would be Kim Sherwood-Caso’s vocals. She totally nailed it. I’m really pleased with how the record is turning out. Roots rock, if you can believe that. Lots of guitar, courtesy of Mike Edmondson. Will release the CD in the spring.
Johnny and Mike return to Maxies with their alternative country rock. With an upcoming release and a European tour in March, get in here to see Johnny warm up the band and our ears. Always free and always kid friendly
Before Johnny Dowdheads out to Europe to promote his new album Family Picnic – due for release in March – his Stateside fans will have a handful of opportunities to see him perform with musical partner in crime Michael Edmondson on guitar.