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On 'Homemade Pie,' Johnny Dowd adopts a more organic sound

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Since the mid-1990s, Ithaca’s Johnny Dowd has occupied his own niche in the Americana scene, releasing a string of excellent albums that showcase his dark lyrics, inimitable voice, and blend of country, folk, blues, and rock influences.

His latest album, “Homemade Pie,” released on his own Mother Jinx Records label, continues that trend, drawing inspiration from Dowd’s early influences — particularly the garage bands of the 1960s — for the fuzzy guitar riffs and pumping organ lines that drive many of the songs. Most of them are supplied by Dowd’s longtime bandmate Michael Edmondson, who knows just how to support the songs without dominating them.

Unlike his recent albums, which were full of drum machines and often-dense electronics, “Homemade Pie” relies on live drums, played by former Dowd bandmate Brian “Willie B” Wilson, giving the tracks a more organic feel and sound. And another former Dowd bandmate, Kim Sherwood-Caso, returns to trade vocals and provide harmonies on several songs to great effect, particularly on “Call Me The Wind” and “Gone.”


No matter the musical setting, the core components of Dowd’s distinctive style have remained consistent over the years. His drawling vocals — which sit somewhere between singing and talking — deliver his occasionally foreboding, sometimes sentimental lyrics with authority, quickly catching the listener’s ear.

He’s a master of the opening couplet. “Rick Ross” leads off with “Cut out my heart, fed it to my dog / My dog’s name? God!” And “Uncle Jimmy” opens with and comprises the phrase “I like Uncle Jimmy, more than I love my daddy / He would take me fishing, we would smoke a fatty.”

Indeed, repetition is a key arrow in Dowd’s quiver. In the organ-driven basher “Ladies,” the lines “Where have all the ladies gone?” “Where have they gone?” and “Ladies!” are repeated over and over. “Dolomite Redux” is propelled by a catchy “Hot pants! I need a spanking!” chant. And the creepy “Shack” concludes with more than a dozen “Walk with the zombies” that pile up on each other as the song fades out.



Dowd, who just turned 74, shows no signs of slowing down. He’s already got more music in the can, he’s releasing monthly singles through his bandcamp page (johnnydowd1.bandcamp.com), and he’s added folk art – postcards, downloadable cards, mobiles, and shadow boxes – to his creative output. You can find out find about all of that at his website johnnydowd.com.

Johnny Dowd will perform at Abilene Bar and Lounge June 10-12, opening for Amy Lavere and Will Sexton’s three-day residency at the club. Advance tickets for each show are $15, and are available online at abilene.showare.com.