Today features Johnny Dowd. So if you start with a rock base, add a bit of punk and run it through a gritty synth filter, here is where you’d end up. Check out his album “Twinkle Twinkle” below and listen with us today from 6-7 pm!
Johnny Dowd: working on a new record
By Hans Werksman
June 5th, 2018
photo: Kat Dalton (Polaroid SX-70)
Johnny Dowd is working on his next record. Too early to tell what it will sound like at this stage, but it will see the return of Kim Sherwood-Caso:
Hello good people. Working on a new record. Pretty early in the process, but so far it’s sounding like a grungy garage rock thing, circa 1965. My buddy Mike Edmondson laid down some nasty guitar tracks, and I tracked some vocals yesterday. Speaking of vocals, I’m going to get my old singing partner Kim Sherwood-Caso on this record. Sort of a return to Wrong Side of Memphis, nice and raw. Anyway, that’s what it’s sounding like at this point. Don’t hold me to it.
Amy Rigby has made a life out of writing and singing about life. With bands Last Roundup and the Shams in eighties NYC East Village to her solo debut Diary Of A Mod Housewife out of nineties Williamsburg; through a songwriting career in 2000s Nashville and during the past decade with duo partner Wreckless Eric, she’s released records on visionary independent labels Rounder, Matador, Signature Sounds and reborn Stiff Records as well as her and Eric’s own Southern Domestic Recordings. The Old Guys, her first solo album in a dozen years, measures the weight of heroes, home; family, friends and time. Philip Roth and Bob Dylan, CD/cassette players, touring, the wisdom of age and Walter White, groupies, Robert Altman, egg creams and mentors are paid tribute. Twelve songs written by Amy and recorded by Wreckless Eric in upstate New York, The Old Guys is the sound of a good girl grown up, never giving up
American alternative country musician. Born 29 March 1948 in Fort Worth, Texas, USA.
Previous band Neon Baptist disbanded in 1995, and Dowd was recording songs alone in the office of his Zolar Moving Co, songs that first appeared in 1995 on the cassette album Wrong Side Of Memphis, crediting Dowd as a solo artist, featuring Kim Sherwood-Caso on two instances of background vocals. Most of tracks were re-mixed or re-recorded for the CD version of the album, which was initially pressed as a self-released CD and then officially released on the European label Munich Records and the Chicago-based Checkered Past label.
Johnny Dowd “Twinkle, Twinkle” (Seven Shooter Music, 2017)
From beneath the waters of this dark and eerie sonic soundscape emerge some of the most well-known songs in the American canon. The songs on this fine album are as familiar as, well, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ – the title cut – along with ‘Tom Dooley’, ‘Oh My Darling Clementine’, ‘Red River Valley’, ‘St. James Infirmary’ and ‘House of the Rising Sun’. But it’s a safe bet you’ve never heard them done this way. Dowd is highly original, even eccentric. Sometimes these songs, familiar as they are, can be recognised only by the lyrics.
This album is dominated by dark, deep electronic sounds, anchored by a heavy beat. Dowd is credited with playing ‘all instruments’, but there’s little here that will remind you of any instruments you’ve ever heard before. The vocals are also handled mostly by Dowd. But ‘intones’ would be a better word than ‘sings’. Mostly he just speaks the words.
This isn’t an album you’ll put on when your Aunt Clara comes for a visit. Nor will you dance to it. Of the 13 tracks, only the opening cut – ‘Execute American Folklore, Again’ – was written by Dowd. All the others are songs for the ages. There are no spaces between the tracks. One song sinks into the sonic depths; then, soon enough, a new song emerges from the electronic murk. While the album cover lists 13 tracks, this is really one 36-minute long meditation on the great American songbook.
Dowd, 69, didn’t begin his music career until he was nearly 50, when he released the album ‘Wrong Side of Memphis’, devoted to songs of sin and murder. The album turned him into a cult figure; since then he’s released one unconventional album after another. The music can fall harshly on the ears on first listen. But the album grows on you. And while it’s not dance music, it definitely has a beat – deep pounding drums punctuate the songs.
This, in short, is a work of creativity and imagination – the work of a highly unusual mind. You’ll hear some of the most familiar American songs of all time, reinvented as if they’d been run through a mad computer. But madness and genius are closely related. ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ is an album that, over time, will speak to you in many different ways. This one’s a keeper.
Johnny Dowd offers a dark and eerie take some some of America’s best-known songs.
JIM CATALANO, SOUNDOFF Published 7:32 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2018
Johnny Dowd tackles folk favorites on new ‘Twinkle’ CD
Johnny Down re-imagines some well-loved folk standards on “Twinkle, Twinkle.”Photo by Kat Dalton
Johnny Dowd might’ve titled his 2016 album “Execute American Folklore,” but on his brand-new album “Twinkle, Twinkle,” he literally does that: takes some well-loved folk standards and runs them through the Dowd sonic blender.
Thus, we get familiar tunes such as “Tom Dooley,” “Red River Valley” and “St. James Infirmary Blues” — not to mention “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” — deconstructed through a lo-fi production with the lyrics declaimed in Dowd’s familiar twangy sing-talk vocal style.
Saturday, Dowd will play a CD release show for “Twinkle, Twinkle” at the Dock. Tzar — the duo of Michael Stark and Brian Wilson — will open the show, and then join Dowd and Kim Sherwood-Caso for a few tunes from the several years they played in Dowd’s band. After reading some of his poetry, Dowd will be joined by Anna Coogan and Michael Edmondson to close out the night with songs from the new album. There’s no cover for the 8 p.m. show.
Dowd, who just returned from a three-week tour of Europe, said in mid-January that he didn’t want to get “too intellectual” about the new album.
“You talk about executing American folklore, and you never done a folk song,” he noted in an interview at his studio. “But it wasn’t that thought out — I just got into the idea of learning some regular folk songs, because I didn’t really know that many.”
“You can almost always get everyone to start singing the chorus to ‘Clementine’ or ‘Tom Dooley.’ You don’t even realize you know it until you start singing it—it’s like embedded in your consciousness,” he added.
He noted that his first attempt at the album was “too regular.”
“All those songs are vocal songs, about the melody,” he added. “They’re simple, but everybody knows them. But my vocal versions were just OK — they weren’t wrong, but I can’t really sing them very straight and have it be as good as Peter, Paul and Mary. So then I decided to go with my own thing.”
Dowd recorded most of the album himself, relying on a Mini-Brute bass synthesizer and modular drum machines for the basic tracks. “Originally, it was gonna be just that and vocals, but I ended up adding a lot of stuff,” he said. Edmondson and Coogan also contributed some vocal parts, and Matthew Saccuccimorano mixed and mastered the final tracks.
The new album already has received rave reviews from British music magazines such as Uncut and Mojo, along with some bad ones on Dutch websites.
“I’ve always gotten horrible reviews there — for them, there’s only one Americana artist and that’s Townes Van Zandt, and people who sound like him,” he noted.
“That’s where I got the title ‘Execute American Folklore,’ from a translation of a old review I got saying ‘This is so horrible it’s like he’s trying to execute American folklore.’ I thought ‘Yes, exactly — that is what I’m trying to do.’”
Johnny Dowd will celebrate the release of his new record Twinkle, Twinkle (out on January 12th) with a belated hometown show @ The Dock in Ithaca, NY on February 17th. Full band show with Michael Edmondson, Brian Wilson, Michael Stark, Kim Sherwood Caso, and Anna Coogan, with Tzar as the support act. The album is a collection of radically rearranged public domain songs. He has put up a stream of Red River Valley on his website