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






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)



Real Roots reviews Family Picnic

Johnny Dowd
Family Picnic

De in Fort Worth, Texas geboren Johnny Dowd is van 29 maart 1948. De Amerikaan debuteert in 1997 met Wrong Side Of Memphis. Family Picnic is het zeventiende (!) album van Dowd. Naast vijf live platen is er in 2006 Hellwood, de samenwerking met Jim White en Brian Wilson voor de langspeler Chainsaw Of Life. Voor Family Picnic schreef de Texaan veertien nummers.

Voor het schrijven van zijn nummers gebruikt Dowd vooral een ritmebox. Hij vindt een ritme en schrijft zijn meestentijds rijmende zinnen. Het zijn verhalen uit het familieleven. Onduidelijk is of het gezinsleven van Dowd deze anekdotes oplevert. In titelnummer ‘Family Picnic’ levert het de volgende observaties op.

Every year there’s a family picnic
And folks come from miles around
Mom buys fried chicken on the outskirts of town
Little sister makes a salad
Big sister waits fior a call
Brother John’s in the bathroomLord, he’s climbing the walls
How much emptyness can you swallow?
Would a sixpack get’s you through?
Would it take a quart of whiskey to drive away your blues?

Simpele zinnen, Vocaal wordt Dowd geholpen door zangeres Kim Sherwood-Caso, gitarist Michael Edmondson siert het nummer met functioneel spel. Dowd slaat akkoorden aan op zijn gitaar. Het klinkt eenvoudig, maar is veel meer dan simpel en gemakkelijk uit te voeren.

Johnny Dowd is een zanger zoals er weinig zijn. Muziek maken die simpel klinkt is een gave. Gaat de luisteraar meezingen met een van de veertien nummers, blijkt hoe lastig de tracks in elkaar zitten. Dowd kan als geen ander de melodielijnen van een ritmebox volgen en toch een volkomen eigen geluid laten horen. De frasering van de op leeftijd zijnde zanger is uniek. Daarbij worden de juiste muzikanten ingezet om de muziek naar een volgend, hoger niveau te tillen.

Voorganger Twinkle, Twinkle (2018) verloor de aandacht door een overdaad aan experimenteel gefröbel. Bij Family Picnic heeft Johnny Dowd de gulden middenweg weer gevonden. Tracks die alleen van zijn hand kunnen komen, muziek die uit de pas loopt en toch telkens binnen de bekende lijnen eindigt. Family Picnic is een mooie start van een hopelijk geweldig muzikaal 2019. (Mother Jinx Records)

– Original article

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Johnny Dowd is from March 29, 1948. The American debut in 1997 with Wrong Side Of Memphis. Family Picnic is the seventeenth (!) Album by Dowd. In addition to five live records, there is Hellwood in 2006, the collaboration with Jim White and Brian Wilson for the long player Chainsaw Of Life. The Texan wrote fourteen songs for Family Picnic.

Dowd mainly uses a rhythm box to write his songs. He finds a rhythm and writes his most commonly rhymed sentences. They are stories from family life. It is unclear whether the family life of Dowd yields these anecdotes. In the title number ‘Family Picnic’ it provides the following observations.

Every year there’s a family picnic
And folks come from miles around
Mom buys fried chicken on the outskirts of town
Little sister makes a salad
Big sister waits fior a call
Brother John’s in the bathroom
Lord, he’s climbing the walls
How much emptyness can you swallow?
Would a sixpack get’s you through?
Would it take a quart of whiskey to drive away your blues?

Simple phrases, vocally Dowd is helped by singer Kim Sherwood-Caso, guitarist Michael Edmondson adorns the song with functional play. Dowd makes chords on his guitar. It sounds simple, but is much more than simple and easy to implement.

Johnny Dowd is a singer as there are few. Making music that sounds simple is a gift. Will the listener sing along with one of the fourteen songs, shows how difficult the tracks are. Dowd is able to follow the melody lines of a rhythm box like no other and yet make a completely unique sound. The phrasing of the old singer is unique. In addition, the right musicians are used to take the music to the next higher level.

Pastor Twinkle, Twinkle (2018) lost attention due to an excess of experimental gefröbel. At Family Picnic, Johnny Dowd found the golden mean again. Tracks that can only come from his hand, music that is out of step and still ends within the familiar lines. Family Picnic is a great start to a hopefully great musical 2019. (Mother Jinx Records)

Editors Note:

Copies of Family Picnic will be available at a release party gig and collaborative art show opening March 1st at the Grayhaven in Ithaca.There’s going to be all kinds of Dowd art on the walls and tables, some snacks and drinks, a photo booth and, most importantly, all proceeds go to the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes.

The Sante Fe New Mexican reviews Family Picnic


The nightmares before Christmas

▼ Family Picnic by Johnny Dowd. Here’s another who embraces losers, down-and-outers, and pictures from life’s other side. On his latest (soon-to-be-released) album, Dowd embraces his musical past. His last few records have found the moving company owner drifting into minimalist, sometimes menacing electronic weirdness as a backdrop to his Texas drawl. But Family Picnic is closer in sound to his classic turn-of-the-century output. And more good news: Singer Kim Sherwood-Caso, who graced most of Dowd’s works until the dawn of this decade, is back. And she’s still delightful.

There are nods to the blues here — albeit the blues through a crazy Dowd filter. There’s the harmonica-driven shuffle of “Vicksburg,” in which the music suggests good times as Dowd sings about the carnage of the Civil War. Likewise, the song “Conway Twitty” is a distorted blues tune about a rube soaking in the bright lights of New York City, dreaming of being a star “like Conway Twitty.”

Longtime Dowd fanatics will recognize “Dream On” as a version of a song that originally appeared on Chainsaw of Life by Hellwood — a short-lived band Dowd had with singer Jim White circa 2006. In the song, Dowd confesses a fear of burning out. “You called me a dreamer, but I’m all dreamed out/I’m just a whisper/I don’t know what I was shouting all about,” he sings.

“Thomas Dorsey,” the last song on Family Picnic — and another one from the Hellwood project — is a tribute to the greatest songwriter in the history of gospel music. While the Hellwood version is dark and minor-key, here Dowd turns it into what on the outside sounds like a happy cowboy song — though the fadeout, where Johnny and Kim repeat the refrain, “I wish that Satan would let me go,” is jarring in this context.

– Original Article

Mark your calendars-John’s official CD release and bonus Family Art show is March 1 at the Grayhaven in Ithaca, a venue making a really interesting cultural addition to the Ithaca scene . You’ll get to see a new side to John’s wack sensibility, and a peek at his genetic co-conspirators talents as well. To top it all off, profit from the art sales goes to the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. (That right, it’s yet another Dowd bringing that great cause to the table).

Thanks to Low Profile for making it happen…

                                                                                 – Ed.

Jim White’s New T-Shirt

Jim White Plays Guitars & Talks Jesus At Dingwalls & St Mary’s Guildford

“He then told us about how he hooked up with Johnny Dowd for the album they did together as Hellwood and also just how quickly Johnny re-wrote Jim’s lyrics for A Man Loves His Wife a super dark and twisted tale that sounds like it was being played on a back porch in the middle of nowhere rather than in good old Dingwalls the venue he played the first time he played here.”

 – Posted by  | 29/11/17 |

 – Full Article

Croatia’s KLFM reflects on Johnny Dowd

Johnny Dowd – KLFM

Johnny Dowd spada među one rijetke kantautore što unatoč eklektičnom pristupu 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 Mockingbirdspisateljice 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 Jim 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,Cemetry Shoes, No Regrets, Do the Gargon i Thats your Wife at the Back of my Horse), zaključno sa dva zasad posljednja koji se taman promoviraju u našem sjevernom susjedstvu (Execute American Folklore i Twinkle Twinkle) 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, trosatni 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!

 – Vjeran Stojanac       15/02/2018

Dark Side of Texas
Johnny Dowd is one of the few cantoutists who despite their eclectic approach still retain their native identity, and the result of the conflict between traditional and modern is one of the most original expressions in contemporary music!

Johnny Dowd  was born March 29, 1948 in Forth Worth, Texas. Thus, practically every text starts with a goal that briefly or aims to proanalize the life and creations of the person concerned. However, you are accustomed to the shifting structure of these ‘announcements’, and you know that the author of the writing is by no means the aim of rewriting from the wikipedia, or to make known common chronological facts already available in the relevant literature, noting that frequent comparisons with Waits and Cave are absurd as far as Dowd’s verses. Let’s try to start from the geographical point of view.

Even the birds at the branch know that the federal state of Texas has emerged in the last decades of the best American royalties; from Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, through Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovetta, Rodney Crowell, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Robert Earle Keen, Billy Joe Shaver, and Scotty H. Biram and Justin Towness Earle some elements of that rich array.

But Johnny Dowd’s name is very rarely mentioned in that geographic context. The reason for that part (but you will soon understand – in part!) Is the fact that it is still in the childhood that the all-American process of changing locations and federal states has started – among other things, until the fifth year of his life he lived in Tennessee and Oklahoma. For some time he stayed in California, and in Memphis he returned in 1965 after the divorce of his parents, and eventually ended up in the town of Ithaca, New York.

Fortunately, the old proverb says that you can chase a creature out of Texas, but never completely break out of it, expel that strange spirit that Teddy bears in birth. Lawyers would say,  Iur Sole  – the right of the native Sun! However, Johnny Dowd is essentially different from the names mentioned at the beginning of the text.

All of them have created a recognizable style based on folk, country, blues or combinations of these influences in variable ratios. This can be said for Johnny Dow, specifically for his early phase, when he acted within the Jokers composition from the early 1980s, and the Neon Baptist in the early nineties. No,  Wrong Side of Memphis (1997), the first truly self-contained album, or the work that has just been signed by the name Johnny Dowd brings a somewhat different soundtrack. The compositions come from the expected frameworks, often balancing on the edge of eligibility, at least when it comes to traditional frameworks. Dowdova is an inaugural board interspersed with a dark theme typical of the southern gothic, and the signatories of these lines remind William of Faulkner in a hijack shirt. It may well be this – imagine the action of the novel  To Kill a Mockingbirdwriter Harper Lee takes place in a parallel universe where American South embodies a few last rounds of hell, and where Scout in a maddening madness burns Boo Radley in a baking oven … are you visualizing? Then you probably slowly feel the ambiance of ‘the wrong side of Memphis’. Ballads of Murders, Sinners, and Curse:  Welcome Jesse, John Deere Yeller, Idle Conversation, Ft. Worth; Texas, Ballad of Frank and Jessee James, Pope Oh Papa …, the compositions are apparently dressed in classical folk / country costumes, because the structure of the songs in symbiosis with the unorthodox selection of instruments – the synthesizer, among others – creates a completely unexpected and exaggerated experience. It may be the work of Jim White, who works roughly at the same time (and with which Dowd 2006 will co-operate on the project Hellwood ) the closest match?
This is definitely because, moreover, Dowd will play a major role in the documentary ”  Searching for a Wrong-Eyed Jesus”, a  surreal story about the South of America, which came in 2003 as the fruit of collaboration between scriptwriter Steve Haisman and director Andrewa Douglas, and White’s album  Mysterious Tale of how I shouted Wrong-Eyed Jesus . The scene in the barber shop is literally anthology, as well as Dowd’s performance of the Murder song  , the crude two-tone blues Johnny performs under the gray sky at the car cemetery.

If  Wrong Side of Memphis  announced Dowd’s stand-alone career, presenting a well-known author in a new, duller light, the album  from the Life’s other Side  goes a step further. Here, Johnny is already gathering a companion, which, with certain exceptions, is still tracked today (for example, on a current European tour that, by the way, forbids the Morlachian regions), allowing him to continue experimenting with sound. Frankly, are you able to present a Texan singer whose compositions can mark jazz festivals or go through a typical funky and hip-hop DJ list, still remaining in the native folk domain?

Albums that are down the whole new millennium (just mention  Temporary Shelter, Pawnbroker’s Wife, Cemetry Shoes, No Regrets, Do the Gargon and Thats Your Wife at the Back of My Horse ), ending with the two last ones that are just promising in our northern neighborhood ( Execute American Folklore  and  Twinkle Twinkle) may not even make some noticeable progress with respect to the expected Dowd sound, but that is not something to obey, since his opus has been entirely moved from songwriter mainstream. True, on certain achievements, Johnny returns to a certain extent classical expression (classic in terms of compatibility with people whose names, I repeat, point their eyes at the beginning of this article), but these are rare moments of relaxation, as he will return to his own next album the connection water seems unmatched.

There is no need to write a lithian about Dowda, since his or her mind is needed (and only possible) to hear the hearing. Therefore, listened to listeners, listen to the small, three-choice choices from the opus of this top-class and unusual songwriter, for you will only be able to bring a personal objective court. And Dowd’s opus is a worthwhile thorough listening, especially if you fall into a group of Puritans who, with disdain and disdain, look at the coexistence of traditional and experimental. Because, in that case, Johnny’s songs could have a healing and enlightening effect on you!

 – Translation by Google