New CD release and the 2006 Tour that inspired it

 

Johnny Dowd has dug up a rocking show from the past. Live at GrassRoots 2006, recorded in Trumansburg, NY in July 2006, catches him in full flight, with Michael Stark (keyboards, organ), Willie B (drums, bass pedals) and Kim Sherwood-Caso (vocals). He played quite a few songs that were unreleased at the time – the scary blues rocker Demons and Goats for instance would turn up on his Wake Up the Snakes album in 2010.

While most artists play it safe on stage and stick close to the studio versions, Dowd and his band love to turn things upside down and inside out. Warts and all is pretty much their modus operandi, but it works like a charm. Uncle Willie comes barreling down the tracks like a runaway train. The Good Die Young, a song that became a highlight on the Hellwood album Chainsaw Of Life is a slowed down lament that hits hard. Miracles Never Happen is dedicated to his mother, who would be surprised that her son is still kicking ass today, a music critics favourite, and a cult artist with a fervent and vocal fan base. Drunk is skewed and lopsided, almost falling apart, with Kim Sherwood-Caso as the one who keeps it together. Performing a song with reckless abandon is what Johnny Dowd does best, but he is smart enough to take a time out after such a demanding oexxcursion and let “his band within a band” Tzar (Willie B and Michael Stark) plus guest vocalist Eva Revesz do their electronic thing with Don’t Drink the Water – that must have confused the hardcore folkies in attendance. Closing the show with God Created Woman, a song that was already part of the shows of his first band Neon Baptist and a stand out track of his Pictures from Life’s Other Side album he bade the audience farewell, after putting on a show that delighted his fans, converted a few and generally confusing and/or irritating the rest.

Live at GrassRoots 2006 is released on Mother Jinx Records and is available thru his website (and the merch table at his shows).

Tracks:

  1. Poverty House
  2. Linoleum Floor
  3. Miracles Never Happen
  4. King of the Jews
  5. Uncle willie
  6. The Good Die Young
  7. Drunk
  8. Don’t Drink the Water
  9. Demons and Goats
  10. Ding Dong
  11. God Created Woman

 

As you can tell from Hans’ review, the band was burning pretty hot, as is usual after coming off tour. We wish we had a tape of this 2006 show:

The Sun 2006 review

Speaking of great albums, did you miss this? It was a very good year…

 Johnny Dowd

By Listen Up June 14, 2006
One of 2006’s most intriguing discs so far is Johnny Dowd’s Cruel Words, a combination of poetic lyrics and funky rhythms, with synths, organ, bass, and guitar. Even with the music, the performances — half spoken, half sung — owe more to the theater than to traditional singer-with-band-onstage shows.

Celebrating cynical existentialism, Dowd brings odd stories to life: a wheelchair-bound veteran who questions the price of loyalty; a cowboy who shoots off his “member” because it’s the root of all his troubles; the suicide of a man whose lipstick-scrawled message on a motel room mirror claims he’s the “King of the Jews” — he lay surrounded by women’s shoes, a Telecaster, and, on the nightstand, an empty notepad.Fort Worth native Dowd grew up in Pauls Valley, Okla., pretending to be James Brown (circa Live at the Apollo) before moving to Memphis, where he picked up his first guitar and discovered Hank Williams as Luke the Drifter. Mix in bits of free jazz and psychedelia, and you get an idea what Cruel Words sounds like.

The songs occasionally — and purposefully — jangle like shards of glass in a cardboard box. Dowd’s creaky, out-of-breath voice isn’t a lot better, but the sum of the album goes far out and almost touches the ragged edge where interesting things can happen to music and listeners.

Dowd wrote a dozen of the 14 songs here and interprets bandmate and drummer Brian Wilson’s “Wilder than the Wind ‘66” and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Dowd and his tight outfit turn the otherwise innocuous JBG into a vaguely ominous threat.

Cruel Words is an aural guided tour through a sideways world where nothing is pretty, it just is. The words and music work so well together that listeners can almost see it.

 – Original Article

 

Johnny Dowd: Cruel Words

Alan Brown   
“Mystery, oh mystery / Cowboy’s life is strange / Gets very existential when his brains are rearranged”, drawls Johnny Dowd to the accompaniment of vibrant ’60s retro organ and bombastic drums on the darkly comic opener “House of Pain”, about a philanderer who decides to take a gun to “that thing between his legs”. For the uninitiated listener, this opening gambit amounts to a baptism by fire into the nightmarish domain inhabited by Dowd and the array of desperate, murderous, and marginalized characters he has chronicled in song over the last eight years.

Ever since Dowd decided at the age of 50 to utilise the offices of the removals company he co-owns in Ithaca, New York, to record his self-released, stripped-down, country-blues-soaked-in-blood debut Wrong side of Memphis, he has rejoiced in portraying the seedy underbelly of contemporary small-town U.S.A. But even though the subject matter may have remained a constant over the years, his music has long ago wandered far from its initial raw blues path to incorporate free-flowing jazz and swamp psychedelia.

Cruel Words, Dowd’s sixth album and second for Bongo Beat Records following 2004’s Cemetery Shoes, is no exception with his penchant for country blues and retro keyboards serving as a foundation from which to build a wonderfully ragged fusion of otherwordly funeral funk (“Ding Dong”), hard rockin’ wig-out (“Cradle of Lies”), scuzzy electric-guitar-fuelled rap (“Anxiety”), and distorted penny-opera jazz (“Unwed Mother”) to accompany his profound spoken-word lyrics. It also comes as no surprise to find that the cowboy-turned-eunuch of the opening number is not the only disenchanted individual to appear in Dowd’s latest batch of excellent musical vignettes. There’s the disillusioned wheelchair-bound vet in the funky anti-war song “Praise God” who questions the sacrifice he made for a country that has no more need for his services. On “Final Encore”, Dowd, sounding like a burnt-out Nick Cave, paints a bleak picture of a suicidal musician’s final moments in a cheap motel.

Elsewhere, Jon Langford (who previously performed with Dowd on the latter’s self-penned song “Judgement Day” for the 2002 anti-death-penalty album The Executioner’s Last Songs) and Sally Timms of the Mekons join Dowd regulars Brian Wilson (former employee of Dowd’s moving company who plays drums and bass pedal), Mike Stark (keyboards), and longstanding back-up vocalist Kim Sherwood-Caso (who was sadly absent on Cemetery Shoes) to provide additional vocals on the country lament “Drunk”.

While you’d hardly expect this cacophony of woes to end on a happy note, Dowd wraps things up thrillingly with his longstanding live-set finale “Johnny B. Goode”, a hell-bound reinterpretation of the Chuck Berry classic. With Sherwood-Caso’s angelic backing vocals shadowed by a snarling, creepy Dowd, pounding keyboards, and distorted electric guitar that threatens to drive the song into freefall only to pull back from the abyss at the last moment, this provides a menacing yet exhilarating end to an enjoyably inventive and deliriously dark album.

 – Original Article

 

JDF would like to contribute a small collection of photos of the 2006 European tour, some by Mike Edmondson, some by Michael Stark and some by a photographer at a show ( if you identify yourself, we’ll identify you!):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Soundblabs Most Depressing Album and Moor review of Family Picnic

THE TOP 40 MOST DEPRESSING ALBUMS

 by Kevin Orton    25 Apr 2019
“These are oft cited as the most depressing and dark albums of all time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in my book. There’s something to be said for an artist laying it on the line and going to places where angels fear to tread. I don’t find them depressing. I find them inspiring and beautiful.”
Coming in at Number 36 ( Really? Not a bummer enough for Number 1?):

The first song on Pictures from Life’s Other Side is a little jarring to the sensibilities.

Actually, all the songs are jarring in one way or another, but that first song is just plain unpleasant. The image that comes to mind is of Nick Cave sitting in on a session with Morphine and something going terribly wrong. Luckily, I persevered and waited for track number-two. From then on, I was hooked.

Track number-two, titled “Worried Mind,” and featuring a chorus lifted from Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya,” is pure, sinister listening pleasure. Johnny Dowd is funny, scary, and ultimately, highly entertaining. His musical arrangements are inventive, occasionally hypnotic, even sensual… let’s see, what other adjectives can I throw in here? I’ll say this. Try slow-dancing to “Worried Mind” by candlelight and see if you don’t have some kind of epiphany.

Johnny Dowd is like the Hal Ketchum of the current indie scene. You may recall that Ketchum broke through as a country music recording artist only after a much less visible career in construction or roofing or some such. Similarly, Dowd was in the army and then worked as a furniture mover for many of his fifty-one years, although since he released his first album, Wrong Side of Memphis, which showed up on a number of critics’ Ten Best lists for 1998, he might be able to hire someone to move his furniture now.

Dowd writes his own songs, and given the nature of these tunes, it’s no surprise that he gets a lot of press as some kind of weirdo. Jason Ankeny, a critic for the All-Music Guide, described Dowd’s work as “sick, twisted… and genuinely horrifying.” (see full review below-Ed.) I don’t know if it’s all that. It’s what rock and roll should be: pushing the edge of the envelope. As Dowd himself has said, “a few times I lost the faith, but I’m still a true believer in the power of music. Rock-n-roll is my religion.”

In “The Girl Who Made Me Sick,” Dowd sings “You have a dirty, dirty mind; you got a missionary smile. It’s a strange combination; it drove me crazy after a while.” I wonder if this qualifies as projection, psychologically speaking?

I should mention that Kim Sherwood-Caso’s backing vocals are perfect on this album.

Overall, Pictures from Life’s Other Side rates a Groovy Factor of Four out of Five, which means I’d go out and buy it right now if I wasn’t lucky enough to already own it.

 – Original review in Eclectica

AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny

If there was even the tiniest bit of comfort to be wrung from Johnny Dowd‘s singularly disturbing debut album, Wrong Side of Memphis, it was that the record’s stark, homespun tales of murder, misery, and malice seemed light years removed from reality, evoking a backwoods dementia so completely over the top it often threatened to veer into the ridiculous. Pictures from Life’s Other Side ups the ante considerably: Complete with full-band backing, crisp production, and a broader musical spectrum, the effect is much more chilling, as within this more conventional framework, Dowd‘s obsessions manifest themselves in new and sinister ways, cloaking his fixations and fetishes behind the subterfuge of a suspiciously listenable blend of country, blues, and pop. Where Wrong Side of Memphis immediately revealed itself as the ravings of a madman, Pictures from Life’s Other Side is much sneakier — at first glance, “Hope You Don’t Mind” appears to be a heart-wrenching ballad of unrequited love, but on closer inspection the object of the middle-aged Dowd‘s affection is a schoolgirl; likewise, the hauntingly atmospheric “No Woman’s Flesh But Hers” is a testament to undying love, in this case a husband’s pledge to his comatose wife. Sick, twisted, and undeniably compelling, Pictures from Life’s Other Sidedelivers where countless shock rock and gangsta rap records fall short, capturing a musical vision that’s genuinely disquieting.

 

Still shooting for that Number One spot with his latest release Family Picnic:

johnny dowd family picnic

Johnny Dowd debuteerde zo’n dertig jaar geleden met een donker Americana-album, Wrong Side of Memphis, en met Family Picnic keert hij terug naar die rootsrock omgeving. De teksten hebben nog steeds die zwarte humor, luister maar eens naar het portret dat hij van een familie neerzet in de titelsong van dit album, daar zou je niet vrolijk van worden, als hij het niet zo grappig formuleerde. En dat is eigenlijk ook waarom ik een zwak heb voor deze Amerikaanse singer/songwriter – hij is grappig en werkt op mijn lachspieren, ook met een nummer als Let’s Have a Party, waarbij ik echt onweerstaanbaar in de lach schiet, hoe knullig die drums ook mogen klinken, of misschien wel juist daarom. Hij opent overigens met een heel lekkere instrumental, Hoodoo, die je meteen in de stemming brengt voor goede moordballades en liedjes over andere ellende.

Johnny Dowd is inmiddels zeventig en laat zich begeleiden door twee muzikanten waar hij vaker mee samenwerkte, Michael Edmondson en Kim Sherwood-Caso, en dat werkt perfect. Een perfect Americana-album. Mis de tournee niet die Dowd begin 2019 naar Europa brengt.

Luister hier naar een paar fragmenten:

 – Original Article

Johnny Dowd made his debut some thirty years ago with a dark Americana album, Wrong Side of Memphis, and with Family Picnic he returns to that roots rock environment. The lyrics still have that black humor, just listen to the portrait he puts down from a family in the title song of this album, you wouldn’t be happy if he didn’t put it that funny. And that is actually why I have a weakness for this American singer / songwriter – he is funny and works on my muscles, also with a song like Let’s Have a Party , in which I really laugh irresistibly, no matter how silly those drums are. may sound, or perhaps precisely because of that. Incidentally, he opens with a very tasty instrumental, Hoodoo, which immediately gets you in the mood for good murder ballads and songs about other misery.

Johnny Dowd is now seventy and is accompanied by two musicians with whom he has collaborated more often, Michael Edmondson and Kim Sherwood-Caso, and that works perfectly. A perfect Americana album.

 – translation by Google

Live @ 81 Renshaw

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 humour and the absurd in his work.

Although his early albums were most celebrated in the alternative country community, he has never quite fit into any particular genre. As a singer-songwriter, his music is most often compared to that of Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Captain Beefheart.

Johnny’s new album, “Family Picnic” will be released March 1, 2019. 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.”

Support Rae Clark

£12 advance tickets available from the venue and online here: https://goo.gl/WTKK3Q

 

Feeling Bad Tour @ Cloud Nine

 

 

Twee gelijkgestemde zielen bundelen hun krachten in de ‘Going down the road feeling bad’-tournee! Beeldend kunstenaar/muzikant Melle de Boer is frontman van de band Smutfish – hun debuutalbum Lawnmower Mind (2003), vol melancholisch existentialisme, geldt als grondlegger van de Nederlandse ‘country noir’. De Amerikaanse singer-songwriter Johnny Dowd put voor zijn alt.country uit dezelfde donkere bron als De Boer – niet voor niets wordt hij vergeleken met Nick Cave, Tom Waits en Captain Beefheart. Dowd komt in december 2017 met een nieuw album vol interpretaties van Amerikaanse folk klassiekers. De traditionele liedjes worden precies zoals ze horen te klinken gebracht door Dowd en De Boer gebracht: vol met ziel, actualiteit en elektriciteit. Verwacht geen slaperige singer-songwriteravond, maar een concert vol contrasten!

 

Facebook event

– Original site

Two like-minded souls join forces in the ‘Going down the road feeling bath’ tour! Visual artist / musician Melle de Boer is frontman of the band Smutfish – their debut album Lawnmower Mind (2003), full of melancholic existentialism, is the founder of the Dutch ‘country noir’.The American singer-songwriter Johnny Dowd draws for his alt.country from the same dark source as De Boer – not for nothing he is compared to Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart. Dowd arrives in December 2017 with a new album full of interpretations of American folk classics. The traditional songs are brought exactly as they should be brought by Dowd and De Boer: full of soul, current and electricity. Do not expect a sleepy singer-songwriter’s evening, but a concert full of contrasts!

Feeling Bad Tour @ Patronaat

Johnny Dowd (USA) + Melle de Boer - Going Down the Road Feeling Bad Tour

Als twee mensen lang genoeg graven komen ze elkaar uiteindelijk tegen. Johnny Dowd en Melle de Boer graven al jaren tunnels in de menselijke ziel. Als Orpheusen dalen ze af in de onderwereld en nemen met gevaar voor eigen leven de mooiste dingen mee naar boven. Nu komen die tunnels samen.
December 2017 komt Johnny Dowd uit met een album met zijn interpretaties van Amerikaanse Folk klassiekers. Liedjes als: Going Down the Road, St. James Infirmary, Tom Dooley, Oh my Darling Clementine.
Het zijn Traditionals, de basis van de Amerikaanse muziek. Johnny en Melle zullen ze bijna onherkenbaar brengen. Niet oubollig, maar zoals ze nu moeten klinken, actueel, vol ziel, elektriciteit en noodzakelijkheid. Ze spiegelen een directe reactie op de huidige Amerikaanse samenleving, met alle spanningen en onzekerheden die daarbij denkbaar zijn.
Melle de Boer brengt begin 2018 een album uit. Een solo album heel dichtbij zichzelf. Dit album wordt opgenomen op zijn zolder. Eenzelfde zolder als waarnaar de vader van Melle vertrok na zijn scheiding. Op die zolder wonen spoken. Spoken die liedjes fluisteren.

Johnny en Melle gaan touren door Nederland. Ze spelen hun liedjes. Oude liedjes, nieuwe liedjes. Geen suf singer-songwriter avondje maar elektrisch, chaotisch, hard en lelijk, zacht en mooi. Alleen en samen. Ze combineren hun volstrekt eigen werelden om een onvergetelijk, maar vooral uniek optreden te verzorgen.

Johnny neemt zijn gitarist Mike Edmondson mee. Hij zorgt voor een gedegen slaggitaar waar Johnny al zijn gekte en chaos in kwijt kan. Mike zingt ook mee.
Melle wordt bijgestaan door Suzanne Ypma. Zij heeft samen met Melle zijn nieuwe album opgenomen. Suzanne is van de elektropop. De synthesizer heeft een belangrijke rol in het nieuwe album.

JOHNNY DOWD
Johnny Dowd wordt al tijden een van de laatst overgebleven échte folk originals genoemd. ‘Dowd is misschien niet naar de vorm, maar wel naar de geest een late volgeling van de vooroorlogse blueszangers’ NRC 2001.
Johnny Dowd (geboren 29 maart 1948 in Fort Worth, Texas) is een Amerikaanse alt country musicus uit Ithaca, New York. Typisch voor zijn stijl zijn experimentele, luidruchtige pauzes in zijn liedjes en sterke gotische (in de zin van duistere en sombere) elementen in de liedjes en in de muziek. Er is ook een sterke onderstroom van zwarte humor en het absurde in zijn werk. Als singer-songwriter wordt zijn muziek vergeleken met de muziek van Tom Waits, Nick Cave en Captain Beefheart.

MELLE DE BOER
Vanaf 2001 is Melle bezig met het duiden van zijn ‘Amerikaanse’ muziek.
Zijn band Smutfish, opgericht in 1999, heeft sinds het debuutalbum ‘Lawnmower Mind’ een omvangrijk oeuvre opgebouwd en bij verschillende platenmaatschappijen 5 cd’s opgenomen.
Door optredens op onder andere Noorderslag, SXSW in Austin, Texas, de Popkomm in Berlijn en het Reeperbahn festival in Hamburg, heeft de band veel getourd door Nederland en Europa. Ook noemenswaardig is de tour met Daniel Johnston in 2007 en 2008.
In 2015 vond de release van het album “Trouble” plaats bij het toonaangevende Nederlandse label Excelsior Recordings. De daaruitvolgende tour langs filmhuizen maakte duidelijk dat door tekeningen toe te voegen aan de muziek, de teksten beter begrepen werden, zodoende werd er een extra dimensie aan een optreden toegevoegd.

Waarom zingen Nederlanders zo vaak in het Engels? In 2016 vertaalden Nederlandse schrijvers als Leon Verdonschot, Levi Weemoedt, Maartje Wortel, Ingmar Heytze, Freek de Jonge Liedjes van Melle de Boer naar het Nederlands. Dit gaf inzichten in de keuze voor de Engelse taal als voertaal voor zijn liedjes.
Dit keer verbindt Melle zijn optredens direct met de bron. Namelijk de Amerikaanse folk.

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