Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Review: Johnny Dowd

Johnny Dowd – No Regrets (Mother Jinx)
My initial exposure to Johnny Dowd was on “Murder”, the first track on his debut album “Wrong Side Of Memphis”, released back in 1997. It’s truly one of the most idiosyncratic, unique records to have been spawned by the insurgent country movement. Dowd was already in his late 40s by the time of its release, and was (and still is, as far as I know) a removal man in Ithaca, New York. Frankly, such were the dark themes explored on that first record, I was glad to be 5000 miles away.

I can’t say I ever thought him a country singer in the traditional sense. He seemed to tap into something far more primal that referred back to old blues, murder ballads and the sort of folksong that always ended badly. Over the years he’s broadened his scope, incorporating punk, Louisiana swamp pop, spoken word storytelling and all forms of Americana, and on “No Regrets” he takes his repertoire a step further into analogue electronic beats. It’s an album about love and lust, girls and women who have stirred the loins and stimulated emotions. Not all are real, some never existed beyond a TV screen, but there’s no doubting the authenticity of Dowd’s response.

Every song is named for the female that provided inspiration. Beginning with “Betty” – that’s not a healthy relationship; “Sherry” the “bedroom missionary” is almost sweet. Dirty, but sweet. “Rita” – there had to be a Rita – might be fantasy but musically, it’s like the Silicon Teens got old and learnt to write strange love songs. “No Regrets” might be the most singular Johnny Dowd release since his first, and is no less remarkable. I like it immensely.
Rob F.

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