Johnny Dowd, 2001. Photo by Kat Dalton.

Johnny Dowd, 2001. Photo by Kat Dalton.

Family Picnic (2019)

“Dowd has made a career of making music full of piercingly bleak, hard fought, gnarled dreamscapes that make David Lynch’s tales seem like those of a choir boy. But just when I thought I had him figured out, Dowd delivers a blues record so beautiful that I cannot stop playing it. It is also full of demons that live on a merry-go-round with feedback and distortion taking the places of the painted ponies going up and down. Paradoxically, it’s his most accessible music in quite a while, maybe ever.”

— Amos Perrine, No Depression (US) 

“On these 14 new songs, Dowd, like America, has reverted to his dark, twisted country roots. In Dowd’s case, it’s a good thing.” 


“....because the songs are so damn well put together (after two tunes it sounds like edits of long-forgotten classics from an indefinable past) and following each other at such a fast pace, this is perhaps the man’s most accessible record of the past decade.”

— Guy Peters, Enola (Belgium)

“The grizzled, weather-worn drawing of Dowd that peers out from the CD cover is matched by the dark and ramshackle country-blues noir within....’Vicksburg’ is a blood-drenched affair, the title track is anything but a picnic, and the country legend Conway Twitty gets a surreal namecheck.”

— Daily Express (UK)

“The album of the moment, and probably of the year, is without a doubt Johnny Dowd’s. Family Picnic is, pardon my French, a splendid cubist portrait of forty years of American music. Let’s say Georges Braque with a Fender amp and a flask of whiskey.” 

— Dyl Dylan, Le Cri du Coyote (France)

Twinkle, Twinkle (2018)

“Reverence be damned. . . . Twinkle, Twinkle finds the prolific miscreant sifting through some of the keystones of American blues, folk, and jazz and giving them a radical makeover. . . . few manage to recycle existing musical forms quite like him.”

— Rob Hughes, Uncut (Americana album of the month, February 2018)

“Always keen on testing musical heritage with a perverse, exploratory attitude, on Twinkle Twinkle Johnny Dowd goes the full Resident on us, treating cornerstones of Americana to sometimes terrifyingly atonal avant-rock and electronic makeovers that expose the soft white underbellies of songs such as ‘John The Revelator’ and ‘Tom Dooley.’ Folk standard ‘The Cuckoo,’ for instance, becomes a menacing electronic shuffle, while grim dubstep and waspish organ bring a truly despairing tone to ‘Trouble In Mind’ and ‘St James Infirmary Blues.’ Dowd strikes even further out on ‘Rock Of Ages.’ shouting ‘I said Rock!’ over a drunken, stumbling electro beat and darting guitar stabs, as if exhorting a crowd to riot rather than to church. Elsewhere, Anna Coogan’s harmonies lend an authentic mountain-music edge to the murder ballad ‘Tom Dooley’; while Dowd’s abject narration, stalked by spindly, primitive beat and nightmarish swirl of noise, restores real desolation to the oft-prettified ‘House Of The Rising Sun.’ A dirty job, but somebody had to do it.”

Independent (London)

“Ending with a funked-up Biblical passage from Job, it’s a worthy soundtrack to the horror of America and its heartland today.”

—Sylvie Simmons, MOJO

Execute American Folklore (2016)

“Soaked in swirling guitars with extraterrestrial synth sounds throughout Dowd here creates a piece which is on a par with the best of Beck.”



“Imagine if Hank Williams had mutated into Captain Beefheart, acquiring a bunch of primitive electronic equipment along the way, and you’ll get some idea of where Johnny Dowd is at on Execute American Folklore. . . . Gloriously deviant.“

— Andy Gill, The Independent (London)


“Sometimes music shouldn't be easy, and instead should be mysterious, idiosyncratic and the work of a true maverick. So we should welcome the arrival of a new Johnny Dowd album. . . . Never a man to run from the truth, if there was any justice, this guy would be a legend.“

— Acoustic Magazine (UK)


“This 14-song album is among Johnny Dowd’s best and, in an aberrant way, most accessible. Opener Unease and Deviance, which sounds like a disco single played at 33, is weirdly danceable, while the rap brag-a-thon Modern Woman is a gleeful sing-along. As well as a beatnik-hillbilly rap, there’s punk-blues too, SFX, synths, cool arrangements, and luckless characters who wouldn’t feel alone at a Trump rally.“


That’s Your Wife on the Back of My Horse (2015)

“Dowd has dusted off the same drum machine that was the bedrock of 1997 debut Wrong Side of Memphis, concocting tart rhythms and overlaying them with distorted bursts of guitar and busy electronica. These are songs about getting laid and getting dumped, about women, devilry and familial dysfunction, often funny and invariably dark. As such it twists from blues and soul to punk and experimental rock, though Dowd's terrific voice (like a Texan panhandle Mark E. Smith) roots everything in country soul. . . .Suffice to say, this is vintage Dowd.”

— Rob Hughes, Uncut, April 2015 Americana Album of the Month


“[Johnny Dowd’s] latest offering, That’s Your Wife on the Back of My Horse, is another tongue-in-cheek masterpiece, which gives a firm and mighty middle finger to the bland clones of the music industry and those who created them. . . .Dowd is Dowd, a veteran hell-raiser with a dystopian style and edge, that some twenty-year-olds would give their right sleeve-tattooed arm for. . . .If Dowd’s music does not become the sound track of the next Twin Peaks, it will be a travesty. David Lynch are you listening?” 

— Alan J. Taylor, No Depression


“For his latest rummage in the dark corners of Americana, Ithaca-based demon Dowd has reverted to the creepy lo-fi settings of his 1998 Wrong Side of Memphis debut. It’s a compelling approach—the drum machine, growling and burbling synths and splintered guitars provide a stark and confrontational setting for devious monologues (‘The Devil Don’t Bother Me’) and disturbing vignettes (‘Poor, but Proud’).”

— Daily Mirror (London), 4 stars

Do the Gargon (2013)

“It’s idiosyncratic, inimitable, rich entertainment.”

— Peter Watts, Uncut, Americana Album of the Month


“Gonzo hell-bound music from a true original.”­

—Andy Fyfe, Q Magazine


“What’s certain about Do the Gargon is that there’s nothing else around that sounds quite like this, with its febrile, feverish mix of Texas boogie, punk-metal and distorted jazz-funk. Dowd claims he’d been listening to a lot of Betty Davis and ZZ Top when he was recording it, which explains a lot, including the unexpectedly raffish good humour. ‘I think it’s my most toe-tapping record so far,‘ he believes, and he’s not wrong. “

—Andy Gill, The Independent

No Regrets (2012)

“This boisterously great 11th album finds [Dowd] in typically uncompromising form, thumbing through his little black book and paying tribute to all the girls he’s loved and lusted over before. Musically it’s mostly throbbing electronica and sliding rhythms (‘Billie’ is a dead ringer for ‘Suicide‘), with Dowd’s rusted-saw voice often scarifyingly intense, not least on stalker ballad ‘Betty.’ It’s all served with a knowing grin (the fabulous ‘Ella’ is notable for a pastiche of Rihanna) and able cameos from Mary Lorson and regular vocalist Kim Sherwood-Caso.”

— Rob Hughes, Uncut

“The uncompromising late bloomer returns with an album themed around the women in his life. .  . .Tinny, processed beats underpin dirty basslines, tasty guitar licks, engaging keyboard-driving tunes and that expressive Dowd drawl. As he careens through his jaw-dropping tales of Betty, Billie, Juanita, Rita, and Abigail, it’s clear this loser in love is a winner when it comes to original and thrilling music.”

—The Sun (London)

Johnny Dowd and band, 2013. Left to right: Willie B, Johnny Dowd, Michael Stark. Photo by Kat Dalton.

Johnny Dowd and band, 2013. Left to right: Willie B, Johnny Dowd, Michael Stark. Photo by Kat Dalton.

Wake Up the Snakes (2010)

“Brilliantly macabre, rib-tickling, poised and admirably raw dirty rock ’n’ roll from the shaded supremo of gothic Americana. All recorded live in three days, it plunges you into a world of deep crevices, bizarre happenings and fiery wonder in a way that albums costing millions can only dream of.”

—Mirror (London)

“The indomitable Johnny Dowd is a 62-year-old from New York State who didn’t cut a record till he was 50. He’s making up for lost time with Wake Up The Snakes, a soupy, soulful, dangerous, dirty career best. His band strike an excellent groove which lasts all the way from the funk-meets-half-spoken growl of opener ‘Yolanda’ to the smokin’ finale ‘Organ Grinder.’ Dowd’s got all the swagger and star quality of acts a third his age.”

—The Sun (London)

“After 2008’s roaring A Drunkard’s Masterpiece, Dowd clearly has the taste for a full band workout. Wake Up The Snakes is a throwback to the days when soul and garage rock first collided, ripping along to farfisa and head-slapping guitar with messy abandon.”

— Uncut

A Drunkard's Masterpiece (2008)

“It’s weird, uncompromising and, compared with anything I’ve heard this millennium, certainly unique. A Drunkard’s Masterpiece is a creative car crash of Americana, beatnik rock, poetry, prose, jazz rock, rap, screaming metal guitar, retro pop, spoken word and country noir.”

— Sylvie Simmons, MOJO

Willie B and Kim Sherwood-Caso at The Rongo, Trumansburg, NY, 2010. Photo by Kat Dalton.

Willie B and Kim Sherwood-Caso at The Rongo, Trumansburg, NY, 2010. Photo by Kat Dalton.

“There’s nobody quite like Johnny Dowd, a dapper 60-year-old Texan absurdist who recorded his first album 10 years ago. . . . Here, duetting with Kim Sherwood-Caso, he offers deadpan, lyrical opinion on his two favourite subjects—alcohol and the differences between men and women—like Charles Bukowski backed by a jazz-country funk shuffle. It’s really quite brilliant, putting to shame artists half his age.”

— Peter Shepherd, Uncut

“Johnny Dowd is like some self-mutating virus of American music, restlessly bringing fresh twists to old forms, absorbing influences. The likes of Beefheart and The Residents have informed his warped alt country/rock for years, and stirred in here are elements of The Doors, Miles’s serrated Seventies avant-jazz, Los Lobos, doowop and a snatch of Deep Purple’s most renowned riff. . . . All [the songs] feature Dowd’s blend of high tragedy and low comedy, embodied in the cynical charm of lines like ‘Poetry is the path to hell, accompanied by the sound of wedding bells.’ But then, who else but maybe Frank Zappa would do a song about ‘the sacred bond between audience and performer’ and call it ‘Union of Idiots’?”

— The Independent (London)

Cruel Words (2006)

“With his lean, mean, funky songs about drinking, religion and wheelchairs, Mr. Dowd comes across like Johnny Cash reinvented by Quentin Tarantino. Nasty.”


Cruel Words may be the greatest album of his career.”

—Andy Gill, The Independent (London)

“From the opening number, ‘House of Pain,’ with its retro keyboards, screaming noir chords, big drums and spoken-word lyrics about rearranged brains and ‘that thing between his legs,’ this is classic Dowd territory: perverse, musically delirious and blackly funny.”

—Sylvie Simmons, MOJO

“It’s a stripped-down revved-up sound, something you might encounter if the Bates Motel in Psycho had a lounge. . . . Cruel Words is the best album he’s made.”

—Bill Bentley, Studio City Sun

Cemetery Shoes (2004)

Johnny Dowd Cemetery Shoes by Kat Dalton.jpg

“Nice title, nicer sleeve—Dowd in a graveyard, debonair in sharp black suit and brogues, poking the dirt with his electric guitar. Whatever’s lurking down there appears to have been dug up and set to spooky blues, finger-popping jazz or a cheerful cluttery cacophony of beatniky sounds that wouldn’t be out of place on a Tom Waits record. Upbeat opener ‘Brother Jim,‘ the disturbing ‘Dear John Letter‘ and ‘Dylan’s Coat‘ and ‘Rest in Peace,‘ with their spoken word vocals, sound like a Waitsian wake being held on unhallowed ground. . . . Wonderfully warped yet remarkably accessible.”

—Sylvie Simmons, MOJO

“There’s intense and there’s Johnny Dowd. He’s Nick Cave with a hangover. Hank’s lonesome whistle spat through Waits’s grinder, with Beefheart on the side, coming on like a flu-ridden Texan undertaker singing broken folk laments for a dead dog he never cared much for anyway. In the main, this—Dowd’s sixth album since he started recording as many years ago at 50—ratchets along with trademark edge, his cracked larynx, jagged guitar and spooky organ possessed of something quite unnerving, eking out gothic tales laced with tar-black humour.”

—Peter Watts, Time Out London

The Pawnbroker's Wife (2002)

“This is the world of the noir novelists James M. Cain and Jim Thompson, a world where love and death snake around each other like a Mobius strip, the one leading inevitably to the other, and back again, in an unbreakable loop of fatalism.”

—The Independent (London)

“With its intoxicating psychobilly, violent musical convulsions and cacaphonous garage-punk, The Pawnbroker’s Wife is plenty dark, but there are also some of Dowd’s most accessible songs. From the retro pop of ‘I Love You’ and country duet ‘Separate Beds’ through Lee Hazelwood cover ‘Sleeping in the Grass’ and ballad ‘True Love.’ The latter is a murder ballad, but it’s the man who’s killed.“

—Sylvie Simmons, MOJO

Temporary Shelter (2000)

Johnny Dowd and band, 1999. Left to right: Willie B, Kim Sherwood-Caso, Johnny Dowd, Justin Asher. Photo by Kat Dalton.

Johnny Dowd and band, 1999. Left to right: Willie B, Kim Sherwood-Caso, Johnny Dowd, Justin Asher. Photo by Kat Dalton.

“Bolstered by instruments that sound as if they had been abandoned by a travelling circus, each of the 14 cuts is imprinted with an indelibly individual character. A persistent strain of blue-collar Expressionism also runs through the album. . . .Not only is he a master at exposing the unsettling underside of everyday life, he also makes the commonplace seem anything but.”

—Kurt B. Reighley, Time Out New York

“. . . This is the bad conscience of country music as surely as the sheriff in Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me is John Wayne’s — though the people in Dowd’s songs are more like Thompson’s most humiliated characters, and in their most profound moments of embarrassment.”

—Greil Marcus, Addicted to Noise, “Real Life Rock Top Ten”

“In songs like ‘Cradle to the Grave,’ ‘Death Comes Knocking’ and ‘Lost Avenue,’ Mr. Dowd wanders a landscape battered by betrayal, threat and barely submerged violence. . . . Mr. Dowd’s characters also embody a ravaged rural stoicism, a tough determination to survive, which contemporary country music has turned it’s back on with an embarrassed shudder. That’s too bad because country’s roots are buried deep in that soil.”

—Anthony DeCurtis, New York Times, “Country Singers Who Still Display A Country Heart”

Pictures from Life's Other Side (1998)

“If Willie Nelson turned into Mr. Hyde, he’d be Johnny Dowd. Backwoods Gothic tales of love, death, and a perverse God arrive with a twang and a junkyard clatter, reaching for laughs that grow uneasy.”

—Jon Pareles, New York Times, “Favorite CDs You Nearly Missed”

“Though Dowd came across more like an Appalachian anachronism with the bare-bones murder balladry of 1997’s Wrong Side of Memphis debut, here he seems like a visionary, putting an x-ray to the underbelly of Americana, finding a strain of creepiness that extends from the carnival to the cocktail lounge to the country honky-tonk. . . . My two favorite albums thus far in ’99 are Moby’s techno spiritual Play and this. Moby is heaven; Dowd is hell.”

—Don McLeese, Austin American Statesman


“Dowd’s sophomore effort commences with the Hank Williams title cut, rendered as a kind of bizarrre polka-cum-Delta blues. From there, Dowd—singing in an astonishing range of character-rich voices that veer from a kind of Howe Gelb hick-drawl to a nodding-out Nick Cave mutter to a Beefheart growl to (I’m not kidding) a Bono whisper—surrounds himself in an equally daunting array of arrangements that fully complement his tales of self-inflicted misery and diseased love.”

—Fred Mills, No Depression

Wrong Side of Memphis (1997)

Johnny Dowd Wrong Side of Memphis.jpg

“A moving man from Ithaca, New York, embarks on the scariest ride of the year in this homemade work of genius.”

—Chris Morris, Billboard, Top Ten Releases of 1997

“The jaw-dropping intensity of his dark, twisted country blues makes Johnny Dowd an outright godsend. This exquisite debut is proof that not every story has been told.”

—David Sprague, Request, Top Ten Indie Releases of 1997

“A hillbilly’s version of Rubber Soul—only it’s not about love’s transcendence, but about sin, death, blood, and Jesus. You can listen to it as the soundtrack to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer—just rent the video, turn off the sound of the movie and settle in for a nightmare ride.”

—Xavier Tarpit’s 1997 Top 14, Addicted to Noise Critics’ Picks

Songs: Lyrics and music by Johnny Dowd, ©Seven-shooter Music (BMI), administered by BMG Chrysalis
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