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.

 

 

Live @ The Dolphin (Family Picnic review by Rocking Magpie)

In late 2016 we were delighted to welcome the King Of Junkyard Americana, Johnny Dowd, to Bovey Tracey. A truly memorable night ensued and there are some great photos in the portfolio area.

We are very happy to announce that Johnny will be back with us in Bovey Tracey in April 2019 for another brilliant night. Don’t miss it!

See Johnny’s artist page for more information, photos and links.

Don’t miss the fabulous Johnny Dowd on tour from the USA this Saturday at the Dolphin, Bovey Tracey. Tickets from: www.southdevonmusic.co.uk.

 

Johnny Dowd FAMILY PICNIC

Johnny Dowd
Family Picnic
Mother Jinx Records

A Man Out Of Step Takes a Massive Leap Into The Alt. Past.

Johnny Dowd? It’s not fair to say that you either ‘love him’ or ‘hate him’ as it’s more, ‘you get him’ or ‘you don’t’. Mrs. Magpie gave me ‘that look’ last Saturday night when I played this on the stereo; which puts her in the latter camp; me…… bring it on kidda!
Dowd is now 70 and been recording albums for just 30 of those years; but those albums have helped change what we now call Americana Music for the better; as he has probably been an influence with anyone who put’s an Alt. in front of Country or possibly even Blues.
I will try to use the word ‘weird’ once; and keep the comparisons to a bare minimum; but right from the get go; opening track, the weirdly Jazzy/Blues instrumental Hoodoo sounds like something Zappa or Beefheart dreamt of creating put sadly failed, leaving it for Johnny Dowd set the new benchmark for Avant Garde Rock Music.
Over the years I’ve received quite a few albums by artistes trying to make music this interesting and fascinating; but all save a couple of songs have failed miserably; yet even on this Dowd’s 18th album it’s chock-a-block full of songs that will spin your head; but bring you straight back for more, more, more.
There’s so much more to Vicksburg than just being a history lesson; it could be poetry set to an Acid Jazz beat; or is that Alt. Country with a beat box? Who knows? Who cares?
Dowd uses Bass-lines so dynamic on the sparkling title track Family Picnic and Back End of Spring they will more than likely to get pinched by with-it Hippity-Hoppity stars; yet on the latter Dowd might even be getting his own Hip-Hop on anyways!
While there are surprises around every corner; I was stunned to hear Dowd Go Dub on Let’s Have a Party; or at least the backing track has come straight out of Orange Street but Dowd’s vocals are straight up East Coast Country…… play it LOUD and play it often.
With so much going on in his songs, it’s easy to forget what a great songwriter Johnny Dowd has always been; his odes to Conway Twitty and Thomas Dorsey have to be heard to be believed; yet somehow I think both men would raise an eyebrow were they to ever hear these two ‘love songs’.
Obviously with an album so left-field and eclectic makes finding a Favourite after only a couple of plays nigh on impossible; but if forced I will have to spin a coin between Stuttering Wind, as if it had been around in the early 80’s I would have danced my ass off to this on a Friday night at Barmston Club; and the other is the nearest to a Country song as I’ve heard from Mr Dowd, Four Gray Walls…….. but don’t expect an invite to the Opry any time soon!
If I had a record store I don’t know where I would slot this album in today; as it’s not easy to pigeon hole in 2019 where the public need descriptions like leading a horse to water; but let’s go for Alt. Eclectic or Avant Garde Americana……. or just Damn good and intelligent Rock Music?

 – Original article

 

Live @ The 100 Club (review by MOJO and UNCUT)


TICKETS

 

UNCUT:

The Making of Family Picnic

 

Mark your calendars-John’s official CD release and bonus Family Art show opening 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 expression of 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.

 

UPDATE FROM JOHNNY’S SITE:
Michael Edmondson and I are gearing up to cross the Atlantic with a whole passel of new tunes, along with some oldies and a couple of great covers. I’ll be bringing my buddy Park Doing to open for some of the shows. He’s wackier than I am, if you can believe that. The new record, “Family Picnic,” will be available March 1— at all the usual digital outlets and on CD at my site and on tour. Buy it!

Photo by Kat Dalton
Tour schedule: www.johnnydowd.com/tour/

Image may contain: John Dowd, standing and sunglasses

 

A Retrospective look at the making of FAMILY PICNIC

Johnny Dowd: new album in the Spring

photo: Kat Dalton

The new Johnny Dowd record is still a work in progress, but so far everything is going as planned and it should be available next Spring:

Headed into the studio yesterday to put the icing on the cake — that would be Kim Sherwood-Caso’s vocals. She totally nailed it. I’m really pleased with how the record is turning out. Roots rock, if you can believe that. Lots of guitar, courtesy of Mike Edmondson. Will release the CD in the spring.

 

Wrapping up the Twinkle Tour

“on the final leg of super fun euro tour–i want to thank all the peeps who came to the shows–it was blast playing for you–also thanks to melle and suze–u were/are incredible–and to joost who kept the whole machine running–and course mike who played like a demon—special thanks to kat dalton–without her there would be no johnny tours or music career–and to to dave hinkle who keeps zolar moving co. going—and to jenifer edmondson-[ace blogger and merch salesman]”

Johnny Dowd

Check out Melle’s blog for his behind the scenes take on the Feeling Bad tour and Johnny Dowd.. You’ll have to scroll to get to the tour,because Melle is a busy,creative guy, so I suggest you read from the top and see what he and Suzanne are up to these days. Here’s some excerpts to whet your appetite:

Temporary Bandage # 29

January 25, 2018

After the uncomfortable handshake, the Americans are in the car. John and Mike. With bags so big that there might be more Americans. It just fits.
I drive a bit. John sees a truck on the way. For piano transport. He knows that moving pianos in the Netherlands is difficult. Those narrow stairs in those high houses. Pianos need to go outside the houses around the houses. Mike knows that Dutch houses sometimes have hooks where they can lift pianos.
I finally know the way again. And bring them to their temporary home. It is a nice house.
In the evening we practice in the attic of their house.
We are going through songs.

Wayfairing Stranger
Wreck on the Highway
Clementine (I think I think the best sentence in a song is)
Worried man blues
Tom Dooley (That sang my father and he taught me guitar)
And another one I now forgotten.
Singing together twinned and everything that goes wrong is much nicer than what sounds good.
On to the Altstad in Eindhoven!

A bit of a cunt photo, but my phone fell out and was not possible again.

johnny1

Temporary Bandage # 34

January 30, 2018

On a sign it says that it is one of the oldest Christian settlements in Europe. It is a beautiful, London church where we play. Out of stock. On a Monday night. That’s because of johnny. Suus and me see them for the first time. Almost all my CDs have been sold afterwards. So many enthusiastic people, that I’m going to think something is wrong. It is a great experience.

IMG_5822

Afterwards the after party in the hotel room of Johnny and Mike.

IMG_5820

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