Join us for a night of music and food to benefit the Tompkins family. Co-hosted by Mary Lorson and Mickie Quinn. Enjoy music from Ithaca musicians, including Pierce Walsh, The Long Now, Sam and Mandy, Janet Batch, Jennie Stearns, Johnny Dowd, Venissa Santi, Wingnut, Strange Heavy, Billy Coté, Mary Lorson, and more! 4pm til close. Maxie’s will donate 10% of the sales that evening. Donations welcome!
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”