Reflections on Johnny by Martin Bedford

Two of the best Johnny Dowd posters ever made.

And you can have one…

…from Martin Bedford

Johnny Dowd supporting My Darling Clementine @The Dock

– HCTF reviews Execute American Folklore

 

Live @ The Dock with My Darling Clementine


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JOHNNY DOWD

Johnny Dowd (born March 29, 1948 in Fort Worth, Texas) is an American alternative country musician. Typical of his style are experimental, noisy breaks in his songs and strong gothic (in the sense of dark and gloomy) elements in the lyrics as well as in the music. There is also a strong undercurrent of black humor and the absurd in his work.

He currently resides in Ithaca, NY.

Although his early albums were most celebrated in the alternative country community, he has never quite fit into any particular genre.

The Dock: Tickets here

 

Live @The Silver Line Tap Room

Johnny Dowd is back at The Line! Come join us for a great night of Alternative Americana and Rock and Roll with this internationally acclaimed local super star!

 

Johnny Dowd, one of a kind leftfield trashcan Americana artist, has a show at The Silver Line in Trumansburg, NY on April 7th. He will introduce his new band The Love Munchkins. Show starts at 8pm.

 – Here Comes the Flood

 

– photo by Kat Dalton

 

 

 

 

Live at The Bunker Elwood City PA 3/11 6:30pm

 

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Johnny Dowd is an American alternative country musician from Ithaca, New York. Typical of his style are experimental, noisy breaks in his songs and strong gothic (in the sense of dark and gloomy) elements in the lyrics as well as in the music. There is also a strong undercurrent of black humor and the absurd in his work.

We have previously only seen Johnny Dowd at the Fingerlakes Grassroots Music Festival in New York, & we are looking forward to welcoming him to The Bunker for what will be a rare and exciting opportunity to see this audacious, rockabilly-punk, poet-songster in an intimate house concert format. He will be accompanied by his former Neon Baptist bandmate, Mike Edmondson, on keyboards.

“Sometimes music shouldn’t be easy, and instead should be mysterious, idiosyncratic and the work of a true maverick. So we should welcome the arrival of a new Johnny Dowd album. . . . Never a man to run from the truth, if there was any justice, this guy would be a legend.“ — Acoustic Magazine (UK)

“Gonzo hell-bound music from a true original.”­ —Andy Fyfe, Q Magazine

Details: 848 Walnut Drive., Ellwood City, PA
Doors open at 6:30 for a pot luck dinner (food contributions are welcome but not mandatory) followed by music at 8 pm
BYOB

Donations will be collected – $20 per person is suggested, but feel free to give more 🙂 100% of your donation goes to the band…Your support of live music is appreciated!

*Please help to spread the word about this event by inviting your music-loving friends!!

Hope to see you on March 11!
The Klines

COMMENTS:

Yay, it’s Johnny Dowd Day!
This is THE DAY… the day that Johnny Dowd comes to Ellwood City, specifically to our DEAR friends the Kline‘s house… their basement, aka The Bunker.
It’s a little chilly today but the roads are clear and dry with no precip in the forecast… and the environment in The Bunker is climate controlled… in the best ways possible, WARM and LOVING. This will fill your soul, with the best food, companionship and MUSIC/POETRY you could hope for.
Please come join us, you may never have another chance to experience anything like this!
JOHNNY Dowd!!

Larry Franklin

— 02/03/2017 20:15
We haven’t seen Johnny Dowd in several years, mainly because we haven’t been to Ithaca, NY, where we have always seen him perform. Nor have we his last couple of albums, which we *will* remedy next weekend. We do have most of his previous remarkable recordings… but there is just nothing like seeing and feeling him live and in person, it is a *very* unique experience. A vibe like I have experienced nowhere else. He’s very popular in Europe but not so much in The States, which I personally see as tragic. We first saw him fronting Neon Baptist at the first Great Blue Heron Festival. Anyone who knows us knows that our favorite band, next to The Grateful Dead, is Donna The Buffalo… Donna played several times each day at the first Great Blue Heron Fest, and we did immediately fall in Love with them, but I can’t honestly say that I remember very much of their sets from that festival… what they played, etc… but I do remember every second of that mind-blowing Neon Baptist set. We have seen Mr Dowd at every chance since then, even forgoing the Saturday night Donna The Buffalo sets at their home base festival, the Fingerlakes Grassroots Fest, just outside of Ithaca, where he is usually scheduled opposite them on another stage. And each and every time has been well worth it, I remember every set of his we have ever seen, even the most highly intoxicated ones. 🙂 We have made several trips all the way to Ithaca just to see him perform. Now I suppose he is an acquired taste, he is “different,” he is dark, and he is Pure Art. IMHO. Not “pretty” art, high art… dark high art to the extreme. Johnny Dowd has been compared to Nick Cave… probably because he is so dark. Johnny Dowd has been compared to Captain Beefheart… probably because of the unique ways he uses words and sound. Johnny Dowd has been compared to Tom Waits… I myself do that often when talking about him… because of his artistic sensibilities, temperament and taste. But he is just unique, and incomparable. As far as I know he hasn’t performed in the Pittsburgh area before, which makes next week’s show at Kline’s basement, The Bunker, a premiere of sorts. Do yourself a favor. Take a chance. We are *extremely* excited that he’s coming here to Ellwood City and we hope that all the wonderful open-minded music fans who frequent this fine venue, and YOU, join us and thoroughly enjoy this… character. You have never seen/experienced anything like it. Check out some of these You Tube videos, open your mind, and fasten your seat belt….

Gary Johnson

— 02/03/2017 20:15
I live in Cincinnati. If it wasn’t for a work commitment on March 11, I would drive the 300 miles to Ellwood City for this show. That’s how much I appreciate Johnny Dowd’s music. You fans of adventurous music in Ellwood City or places closer to it than Cincinnati owe to yourselves to attend. Johnny takes various musical elements and twists them into his own unique musical vision. On top of that, he is a very engaging performer with a fine sense of humor. See him if you can!

Larry Franklin

— 03/03/2017 17:32
Hey kids… can’t beat a recommendation like this… thanks, Gary!: “Gary Johnson: I live in Cincinnati. If it wasn’t for a work commitment on March 11, I would drive the 300 miles to Ellwood City for this show. That’s how much I appreciate Johnny Dowd’s music. You folks of adventurous music in Ellwood City or places closer to it than Cincinnati owe to yourselves to attend. Johnny takes various musical elements and twists them into his own unique musical vision. On top of that, he is a very engaging performer with a fine sense of humor. See him if you can!”

Judy Cs

— 03/03/2017 17:32
Gary Johnson, he’s playing a house concert in Buffalo the evening before. PM me for details if you’re not working.
Judy Cs
— 02/03/2017 18:29
quirk·y ˈkwərkē/ adjective characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits. “their sense of humor was decidedly quirky” synonyms: eccentric, idiosyncratic, unconventional, unorthodox, unusual, strange, bizarre, peculiar, odd, outlandish, zany… Johnny Dowd, poet first, and musician, is an acquired taste. Do yourself a favor and acquire that taste. Check out this video from his European tour:

Larry Franklin

— 26/02/2017 22:57
I’ve mentioned before that Mr Dowd is much more popular in Europe than he is here, particularly in Sweden, Germany & The Netherlands… here’s a nice little article about him:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/5852ea02-04f4-49a9-ab8a-40555ac4c1d5

Susan Chikalla

— 23/02/2017 17:52
I’ll be in Wisconsin visiting family that weekend. Have a great time!!! Thanks for the invitation.
Milton Donald
— 23/02/2017 14:53
I hope folks int he Bunker will be prepared for something “different”. 🙂
Larry Franklin
— 23/02/2017 14:53
– this is going to be interesting. Most of Kline’s patrons aren’t very familiar with most of the bands they’ve had there but they’ve been very receptive. And positive. Of course most of the bands have been more acoustic, and many Dead-related. They have no idea what they’re in for! He will be by far the edgiest music they’ve had (it’s a pretty progressive town music-wise… I’m telling folks to think Tom Waits only edgier & darker) and by far the darkest. But, hey, WE know how good he is, let’s just hope minds stay open. I hope to get some of his music posted before the show so folks will have an idea what to expect (suggestions welcomed!), but I’m extremely busy and more than a little sick right now, so I’m not thinking clearly at all… we’ll get on that asap! 🙂
Milton Donald
— 23/02/2017 14:52
Been wanting to get to a Bunker show since you started. Maybe I’ll be able too make this one. Melissa has been wanting to visit Pittsburgh. I could warm up the stage with my song called… “Johnny Dowd”. Would be great to see y’all.
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KLFM plays Johnny Dowd

 

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Johnny Dowd je čovjek koji spada među one rijetke kantautore što unatoč eklektičnom i neuobičajenom stilu ipak zadržavaju svoj nativni identitet, a rezultat sukoba tradicionalnog i modernističkog jest jedan od najoriginalnijih izričaja u suvremenoj glazbi.

Johnny Dowd je rođen 29. ožujka 1948. u Forth Worthu, Texas. Tako započinje praktički svaki tekst kojemu je cilj ukratko ili poduže proanalizirati život i stvaralaštvo dotične persone. No, navikli ste na pomaknutu strukturu ovih ‘najava’, i znate da autoru napisa nipošto nije cilj prepisivati sa wikipedije, niti iznositi općepoznate kronološke činjenice ionako dostupne u relevantnoj literaturi, tek uz napomenu kako su česte poredbe s Waitsom i Caveom apsurdne koliko i Dowdovi stihovi. Pokušajmo onda krenuti od geografske odrednice.

Već i ptice na grani znaju da je savezna država Texas zadnjih desetljeća iznjedrila ponajbolje američke kantautore; od Townesa Van Zandta, Willie Nelsona i Krisa Kristoffersona, preko Guy Clarka, Steve Earlea, Lyle Lovetta, Rodney Crowella, Jimmy Dale Gilmorea, Roberta Earla Keena, Billy Joe Shavera, pa do Scotta H. Birama i Justina Townesa Earlea – da spomenemo tek neke elemente te bogate lepeze.

No, ime Johnnyja Dowda se vrlo rijetko spominje u tom zemljopisnom kontekstu. Razlog tomu dijelom (no, uskoro ćete shvatiti – tek dijelom!) jest činjenica da je dotični još u djetinjstvu započeo onaj sveamerički proces mijenjanja lokacija i saveznih država – između ostalog, do pete je godine života već živio u Tennesseeju i Oklahomi. Neko je vrijeme boravio i u Kaliforniji, a u Memphis se vraća 1965., nakon razvoda roditelja, a te da bi se na koncu skrasio u gradiću Ithaca, New York.

Srećom, stara poslovica kaže da možeš potjerati stvorenje iz Texasa, ali nikad iz njega u potpunosti izbiti, istjerati taj čudnovati duh kojeg teksašani upiju rođenjem. Rekli bi pravnici, Iur Sole – pravo rodnog Sunca! Ipak, Johnny Dowd se po nečemu bitno razlikuje od imena navedenih na početku teksta.

Svi su oni, naime, stvorili prepoznatljiv stil temeljen na folku, countryju, bluesu ili pak kombinacijama navedenih utjecaja u varijabilnim omjerima. To se u određenom može reći i za Johnnyja Dowda, konkretno za njegovu ranu fazu, kada je djelovao unutar sastava Jokers s početka osamdesetih, te Neon Baptist ranih devedesetih. No, Wrong Side of Memphis (1997.), prvi uistinu samostalni album, odnosno rad koji je sada potpisan isključivo imenom Johnny Dowd donosi poprlilično drugačiju zvučnu sliku. Kompozicije izlaze iz očekivanih okvira često balansirajući na rubu prihvatljivosti, barem kada je o tradicionalnim okvirima riječ. Dowdova je nastupna ploča prožeta mračnom tematikom tipičnog southern gothica, i potpisnika ovih redaka podsjeća na Williama Faulknera u luđačkoj košulji. Može i ovako – zamislite da se radnja romana To Kill a Mockingbird spisateljice Harper Lee odvija u paralelnom svemiru gdje američki Jug utjelovljuje nekoliko zadnjih krugova pakla, i gdje Scout u naletu ludila spaljuje Boo Radleyja u krušnoj peći… jeste li vizualizurali? Onda vjerojatno polako naslućujete ambijent ‘pogrešne strane Memphisa’. Nižu se balade o ubojstvima, griješnicima i prokletstvu: Welcome Jesus, John Deere Yeller, Idle Conversation, Ft. Worth; Texas, Ballad of Frank and Jessee James, Papa Oh Papa…, skladbe tek prividno odjevene u klasično folk/country ruho, jer sama struktura pjesama u simbiozi sa neortodoksnim izborom instrumenata – sintetizator, između ostalih – kreira sasvim neočekivan i isčašen doživljaj. Možda je opus kantautora Jima Whitea, koji djelovanje započinje otprilike u isto vrijeme (i s kojim će Dowd 2006. ostvariti suradnju na projektu Hellwood) najbliža poredba?

Ovo definitivno stoji, jer štoviše, Dowd će odigrati bitnu rolu u dokumentarcu Searching for a Wrong-Eyed Jesus, nadrealnoj priči o američkom Jugu koja je 2003. nastala kao plod suradnje scenarista Steve Haismana i redatelja Andrewa Douglasa, a po motivima Whiteova albuma Mysterious Tale of how I shouted Wrong-Eyed Jesus. Scena u brijačnici je doslovice antologijska, kao i Dowdova izvedba pjesme Murder, sirovog dvoakordnog bluesa kojeg Johnny izvodi pod sivim nebom na groblju automobila.

Ukoliko je Wrong Side of Memphis najavio Dowdovu samostalnu karijeru, predstavivši već poznatog autora u novom, prigušenijem svjetlu, album Pictures from the Life’s other Side ide korak dalje. Ovdje Johnny već okuplja prateći sastav, koji ga uz određene iznimke prati i dan danas (primjerice na trenutačnoj europskoj turneji koja, očekivano, zaobilazi morlačke krajeve), što mu omogućuje daljnja eksperimentiranja u zvuku. Iskreno, jeste li sposobni predočiti teksaškog kantautora čije se kompozicije mogu obilježiti jazz festivale, ili se pak provući kroz tipičnu funky, pa i hip-hop DJ listu, svejedno ostajući u nativnoj folk domeni?

Albumi koji se nižu čitav novi milenij (spomenimo tek Temporary Shelter, Pawnbroker’s Wife i Cemetry Shoes), zaključno sa dva zasad posljednja koji se taman promoviraju u našem sjevernom susjedstvu (No Regrets i Do the Gargon) možda i ne donose nekakav primjetan napredak u odnosu na očekivani Dowdov zvuk, no to i nije nešto čemu bi trebalo prigovoriti, pošto je njegov opus u cijelosti već pomaknut iz songwriterskog  mainstreama. Istina, na pojedinim se ostvarenjima Johnny u određenoj mjeri vraća klasičnom izričaju (klasičnom u smislu kompatibilnosti s ljudima čija imena, ponavljam, bodu oči na početku ovog napisa), no to su rijetki trenuci opuštanja, pošto će se on već narednim albumom vratiti u vlastite vode spajanja naizgled nespojivog.

O Dowdu ne treba pisati litanije, pošto je njegov štih potrebno (i jedino moguće) doživjeti slušnim čulom. Stoga se, štovani slušatelji, udostojite preslušati mali, dvosatni izbor iz opusa ovog vrhunskog i neobičnog kantautora, jer ćete samo tako biti u stanju donijeti osobni objektivni sud. A Dowdov je opus itekako vrijedan temeljitog preslušavanja, posebno ukoliko spadate u skupinu puritanaca koji s prezirom i gnušanjem gledaju na suživot tradicionalnog i eksperimentalnog. Jer, u tom bi slučaju Johnnyjeve skladbe mogle na Vas djelovati iscjeliteljski i prosvjetiteljski!

24/02/2017  autor: Vjeran Stojanac

 – Original Article

Johnny Dowd is a man who is one of those rare songwriter that despite the eclectic and unusual style still retain their native identity, a result of the conflict of traditional and modernist is one of the most original expressions in contemporary music.

Johnny Dowd was born on 29 March 1948 in Forth Worth, Texas. So begins practically every text aimed at short or lengthy analyze the life and creativity of the respective persona. Well, you’re used to the shifted structure of these ‘announcements’, and you know that the author of the inscription is by no means objective rewritten from wikipedia, or removed from the generally known chronological facts already available in the relevant literature, only noting that the frequent comparisons with Waits and Cave absurd as the Dowd verses. Then try to start from the geographical determinants.

Even the birds in the trees know that the state of Texas last decade has seen the best of American singer-songwriter; of Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, over Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Rodney Crowell, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Robert Earl Keen, Billy Joe Shaver, to Scott H. Biram and Justin Townes Earle – to name only some elements of this rich array.

However, the name of Johnny Dowd is rarely mentioned in the geographic context. The reason for this part (well, you’ll soon realize – just part!) Is that it is concerned in childhood began the all-American process of changing locations and states – among other things, to the fifth year of life already lived in Tennessee and Oklahoma. For a while he lived in California, and Memphis returns in 1965, after his parents’ divorce, and this in order to end up settling in the town of Ithaca.

Fortunately, the old adage says that you can chase the creature from Texas, but never out of it completely knocked out, flush out the strange spirit that Texans are absorbed by birth. They said to the lawyers, Yur Sole – right gender of the Sun! However, Johnny Dowd at something essentially different from the names listed at the beginning of the text.

All of them, in fact, created a distinctive style based on folk music, of country, blues, or combinations of these influences in variable proportions. This is in particular can be said for Johnny Dowd, specifically for its early stage, when it acted within the band Jokers from the beginning of the eighties and early nineties Neon Baptist. But the Wrong Side of Memphis (1997), the first truly solo album, or work that is now signed exclusively named Johnny Dowd brings poprlilično different sound image. The compositions out of the expected framework often balancing on the edge of acceptability, at least in the traditional framework of the word. Dowd’s next board imbued with dark themes typical southern gothic, and the author of these lines reminiscent of William Faulkner in a straitjacket. Can this – imagine that the action of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird writer Harper Lee takes place in a parallel universe where the American South embodies the past few circles of hell, and where Scout coming madness burned Boo Radleyja in a baker’s oven … are you vizualizurali? Then slowly I suspect probably ambience ‘wrong side of Memphis. Lined with ballads of murder, sinners and a curse: Welcome Jesus, John Deere Yeller, Idle Conversation, Ft. Worth; Texas, Ballad of Frank and James Jessee, Papa Oh Papa …, tracks only seemed dressed in classic folk / country attire, because the very structure of the songs in symbiosis with unorthodox choice of instruments – synthesizer, among others – creates a completely unexpected and disjointed experience. Perhaps opus songwriter Jim White, who action begins around the same time (which is to Dowd 2006. collaborate on the project Hellwood) closest comparison?

This definitely stands, because in fact, Dowd will play an important role in the documentary Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, surreal tale of the American South, which in 2003 occurred as a result of the collaboration screenwriter Steve Haisman and director Andrew Douglas, but the motifs White’s album Mysterious Tale of how I shouted Wrong-Eyed Jesus. The scene in the barbershop is literally anthology, and Dowd rendition of Murder, raw dvoakordnog blues by Johnny performed under a gray sky in the cemetery car.

If the Wrong Side of Memphis announced Dowdovu solo career, presenting already known authors in the new, muted light, the album Pictures from Life’s Other Side goes a step further. Here Johnny already gathers backing band, who with certain exceptions monitors today (such as the current European tour, which, as expected, bypasses Morlacki regions), allowing it to further experimentation in sound. Honestly, are you able to visualize the Texas singer-songwriter whose compositions can celebrate jazz festivals, or they slip through the typical funky, and hip-hop DJ list, still remaining in the native folk domain?

Albums that can lower the entire new millennium (just to mention the Temporary Shelter, Pawnbroker’s Wife and Cemetry Shoes) ended with two for now last who just promote our northern neighborhood (No Regrets and Do the Gargon) may not bring a noticeable improvement over the expected Dowdov sound, but it’s not something we should complain, since his work as a whole has already shifted from songwriterskog mainstream. True, the individual achievements of the Johnny to some extent restores classic expression (a classic in terms of compatibility with people whose names, I repeat, stinging eyes at the beginning of this article), but these are rare moments of relaxation, as it will be on the next album already back in their own water connecting seemingly incompatible.

O Dowd does not need to write a litany, after his flair required (and only available) experience auditory sense. Therefore, honored listeners, deign to listen to a small, two-hour selection from the oeuvre of this excellent and unusual singer-songwriter, because only thus be able to make a personal objective court. A Dowdov work was well worth a thorough listening, especially if you belong to a group of Puritans who with contempt and disgust view the coexistence of traditional and experimental. Because, in this case Johnny’s songs could you act on healing and enlightenment!

 – Translation by Google

Live on WBVR.fm 93.5 Nonesuch

On the occasion of Johnny’s  upcoming WVBR Nonesuch appearance, here’s a Barry Marshall-Everitt House of Mercy interview with him from 2015:

You’re welcome, and you can show your gratitude by helping Barry fund his battle with cancer via his GoFundMe site.

 

Cosmic Joke on Local Musicians

Not Johnny Dowd exactly. In fact, not even remotely, but a good prelude to some fan fun we plan to post later…Poster_20170119,cosmic-joke

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Along with a host of stellar Ithaca musicians covering other stellar Ithaca musicians, former Neon Baptist members Jennifer (nee Dowd) & Mike Edmondson will be covering at least a few songs from the Neon Baptist CD at the next Cosmic Joke Collective show. Mike, of course, is a current JD band member, and Jennifer traveled with the That’s Your Wife tour in 2015.

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In an ultimate celebration of our richly talented community, the performers of the Cosmic Joke Collective will be covering the music of local artists past and present on both January 21st and February 18th with two unique shows.

JANUARY 21st FEATURES THE TALENTS OF:

Jennie Lowe and Leon Arguello
Josh Dolan and Leon Arguello
Mandy Goldman and Samuel B. Lupowitz
Jif Edmondson and Michael Edmondson
Nate Silas Richardson

COVERING THE MUSIC OF:

Angie Beeler • The Blind Spots • Madder Rose • Anna Coogan • John Dowd • Crow Greenspun • Kitestring • Jennie Lowe Stearns • Will Musham • Alan Rose • and more!

6:30 Doors and Upstairs Bar Open
7:00 Showtime
$5 Cover

webclip_Cosmic Joke Collective pays tribute to local scene

– JIM CATALANO, SOUNDOFF

The Cosmic Joke Collective, the monthly artist salon hosted by Mickie Quinn, will present “We’ve Got You Covered, Part 1” Saturday at Lot 10. Each show has a theme, and this one will feature several local artists paying tribute to some of their musical peers.

On the bill are Leon Arguello, Josh Dolan, Jif Edmondson and Mike Edmondson, Mandy Goldman and Sam Lupowitz, Jennie Lowe and Nate Richardson.

According to Quinn, the idea for this show came about when Jennifer Middaugh (Sim Redmond Band, Bronwen Exter, Mary Lorson) had the idea to do a set of songs by local artists she had performed with as a backup singer for a future Collective show. Quinn saw the potential for this to be a theme for a whole show and presented the idea to all of the performers.

“The response was overwhelming,” she said, “So overwhelming that I had enough interest and enthusiasm to turn it into two shows.” Part 2 will take place Feb. 18 at Lot 10.

“We immediately knew we wanted to do this show,” said Lupowitz and Goldman. “There’s such a vibrant array of local music in this town, and we’re both constantly inspired by it. So many great songwriters in such a small radius — it’s impossible not to want to cover their music. Plus, so many artists in Ithaca have been so receptive to us; it’s nice to pay tribute to them this way.”

“I am a musician, but first and foremost a lover of music,” Lowe added. “I was drawn to this town because I heard that it was musician friendly! My biggest heroes are some of my friends, and I want to honor them by singing their songs.”

Among those covered will be The Blind Spots, Alan Rose, Madder Rose, Johnny Dowd, Crow Greenspun, Angie Beeler, Anna Coogan and Joe Crookston.

 – Original Article

 

Live at The Dock – IMOP

 

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Christmas Party for the self-employed !

               At the Dock tonite!

 

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Bido Lito interviews Johnny Dowd – Live Show at Dumbulls

TICKETS

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Executed American Outlaw

JOHNNY DOWD has been making records and touring since 1997. His latest album, Execute American Folklore was released last month. He plays Liverpool for the first time on 20th October at Dumbulls Gallery.

“I thought every record I made, with the exception of Wrong Side of Memphis, would be my ticket into the mainstream and big record sales. The fact that I have been wrong each time doesn’t discourage me.”

There are two types of “outsider artist”, those that make a decent living and get featured on film soundtracks, get a book written about them, maybe even survive on the outskirts of a major label (Daniel Johnston, Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits) and those that self-drive their rental car across Europe to play tiny gigs to a devoted following. Johnny Dowd is the latter. 15 or so releases into a career that started late (Dowd released his first CD in his late 40s) Dowd has flirted with flirting with mainstream success, been featured on the Americana documentary “Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus”, been selected by Matt Groening to play the New York edition of the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival and covered a range of styles from country and folk through to twisted electro-funk.

Joe Florek called him at his home in Ithaca, New York state where he writes, records and runs his home removals business. Just so you can imagine his replies, consider each reply in this interview as a slow, measured, southern drawl (he was born in Texas, grew up in Memphis and moved north in his teens) reminiscent of Harry Dean Stanton sat on a porch with William Burroughs.

Bido Lito!: With some artists, you don’t really know what they do. You assume they exist in some kind of artistic bubble, writing songs and waiting for their muse to turn up. With other bands, such as Steve Albini’s Shellac, for example, they are very open about their day jobs and the time and money it costs to be an artist these days. How do you balance those things?

Johnny Dowd: Musicians who do it the way I’m doing it, basically a full time job and then the music second is because they aren’t financially successful enough. I guess if I was more successful I wouldn’t have that story, I would just be on the road playing music and making money. Because you need money to live, you know? When you were younger, you could go out on the truck all day and then gig at night and it was never really a problem, you had a lot of energy. In terms of balance, it’s never been a problem. I don’t have to go away anywhere to write. I can put the phone down now and just switch off and write a song if I want to. I can write in the office if I’m not out on the truck, or at home. I guess I have a pretty fast on/off switch as far as that goes.

In terms of success, there was a time a few years ago I was getting pretty pissed off, thinking maybe I should be more successful. That’s how it works with my regular business, you know? If you do a good job, and then people tell you and they’ll call again and give you some more business. It’s not like that with the music business, totally different. There’s hundreds of bands out there that I’m better than who are way more famous, but also there are bands that are better than me that never got out of their living room. If you’re looking for justice, it’s not in the music business, you know.

 But I love making music, and it’s like fishing or sex or anything you like doing; it’s enjoyable in and of itself. So whether you’re playing to 4 people or 4,000 once you have the amps turned on and everything, and start up, it’s fine. It’s good. Just the money at the end of the night is different. It’s a bit less.

BL!: How many albums have you released, is this about 15?

JD: Well, Maybe ten or so regular albums, but also some live stuff and some collaborations on top of that. This year I have my new album, Execute American Folklore coming out and a double album of demos and live stuff with my first band from years ago, Neon Baptist and then I have this one, long 25 minute song that is influence by Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew or something. That might be ready for the tour. (Thinks) Maybe not. What date is it? No, that won’t be ready.

BL!: Does it have a name?

JD: It might be called the Back End of Spring or the Black End of Spring. I dunno. It’s instrumental, so I can call it anything. I could call it Your Mama, you know? It doesn’t have to be called anything related to the lyrics because it’s instrumental. I’ve had that title for a long time, I might save it for something else.

BL!: Do you write stuff differently now to how you wrote your first albums? Now you’re getting deeper into your career?

JD: I have changed a bit, I used to just do the traditional thing of sitting there with an acoustic guitar and working on a chord progression. Now I like to work with a drum machine, in a way because it’s more limited. I just get a beat going and then kind of freestyle over it. Not like freestyle rapping. But like blah, blah, blah, talking some lyrics over it until something comes. Or maybe I’ll have some lyrics lying around that will fit it. One thing about some people who maybe run dry when they get really old, some guys have been doing this since they were teenagers and by the time they get to 50 or 60, they’ve been writing for 40 years. But I only started when I was in my 40s, so although I’m 67 years old now, I’m only like……..20 in musical years so I still got plenty of ideas and songs, I reckon. My body is 67, but my musical mind is pretty young, it’s like the opposite of dog years. I haven’t exhausted the musical well.

BL!: Some of my favourite songs of yours are the story songs, where you’re getting one side of a conversation or a view of a character. You have a song, Betty, where you’re calling up an old girlfriend, asking for a leather jacket back that you gave here when you were kids. It’s like a less romantic version of Martha by Tom Waits.

JD: Well Martha is a great song. I used to like the whole thing back in the 60s, there would be comics like Shelley Berman or Bob Newhart and you’d only hear their side of the conversation for the whole routine, so you had to do a bit of work and imagine the other side. They were really funny, and I liked that kind of thing. I like some humour in my music, I like Nick cave and I get Nick Cave and Tom Waits a lot as comparisons but I like that there’s some humour in Tom Waits. No matter how dark the subject matter. And I listen to a lot of Hip-Hop , and there’s a lot of humour in that stuff too.

BL!: There’s another song called Big Wave, from one of your early albums that I used to be listen to a lot, it was on the cover of an Uncut CD about 15 years ago. It’s the story of a guy driving round West Virginia, miles from the ocean, but he still has a surfboard on his car and dreams of the big waves crashing down in Waikiki. That has a lot of dark humour in it. The image of this guy pulling up to the feed store in his truck with a surfboard on it.

JD: That’s it in a nutshell. That’s what I’m trying to do. No matter how weird or dark it is, there’s some humour in there too.

BL!: I saw on your Indiegogo campaign, you said “You people opened your hearts andopened your wallets” to raise $17,000 for the album and tour. You did that OK, but you sold a really beautiful old Hawaiian guitar. Was that a wrench or was it just something you wanted to lose so you could do the tour?

JD: Oh, I never learned to play that thing. So that wasn’t a problem in terms of being sad to sell it. I had it about 25 years and I always said I’d learn to play it and I never did. So I thought I’d let it go and help out a little on financing this tour. I always thought I’d learn to play jazz properly or learn to play like Son House or whatever, and then I thought I’m just going to concentrate on playing C, F, G in time.

BL!: You play a wide selection of styles, do you ever have to disappoint someone if they come up and ask for “first there was funeral” (from “….Wrong Eyed Jesus”) or some Americana stuff and then this new record has a lot of electro stuff on it, like an experimental version of Beck or something. Is that a pressure?

JD: Well, as far as this tour goes, I’ve got a drum machine and two other guitarists. So I’m going to play 4 or 5 songs of this album, some stuff off the other albums and then some stuff just me with a guitar, some of the folkier stuff, like “first there was a funeral”. So if you are a fan of any one particular era or style of Johnny Dowd, you should be happy. (long pause) Or I might not. I never have any fucking idea what I’m going to do, really (laughs). If anyone calls out a song, I’ll make a stab at it, But if it’s bad, it’s like “That’s your fault forshouting it out, I didn’t say I could do it”.



BL!: Obligatory Liverpool question, you grew up in the sixties, were the Beatles on your radar when you were young?

JD: Not really, to be honest, when they came out, later on I went back to them and I can appreciate the albums. But at the time, the first stuff, I didn’t think they were doing anything that the Everly Brothers weren’t doing better. I usually listen to more black music, RnB, James Brown, Otis Redding, Son House and these days the only new music I listen to is Hip-Hop, like Kendrick Lamar just came out with a bunch of great stuff. Some people might say well, I can’t hear anything like that in your music. But what I listen to and what I sound like are different. It’s all in there, somewhere.

BL!: How about writers? Harry Crews was in Wrong Eyed Jesus with you, and Big Wave reminded me of one of the deluded obsessives from Flannery O’Connor, both classic southern gothic writers. Are they anything of an influence?

JD: Oh yeah. I’ve read both authors extensively, that is at least as big as any musical influence on me, even as a kid, long before I was writing music, even, I was reading voraciously.

BL!: The venue you’re playing in Liverpool is famous for a Bob Dylan photoshoot, back in the 60s, I thought that might interest you.

JD: Well, I rate Dylan as a songwriter, definitely, so I’ll have to get my picture taken in the same place, and then play the show. Looking forward to seeing Liverpool. Sounds like a plan.

Johnny Dowd plays Dumbulls Gallery on 20th October with Park Doing and Dead Hedge Trio. Tickets in Probe and Dig! Vinyl or online here.

 – Original Article