Johnny Dowd XMAS 2021 EP coverJohnny Dowd: Xmas 2021 EP

(Seven-Shooter Music)

CD / DL

Out Now

Buy the CD from Dowd’s US website

Download from Bandcamp

Louder Than War Bomb Rating 5

 

Andy Brown throws another log on the fire (well, turns up the heating) to enjoy the death, divorce and Americana of Xmas 2021 by Johnny Dowd. He shares his thoughts for Louder Than War.

I’ll confess, I have a massive soft spot for Christmas music. Look beyond the well-known and somewhat overplayed list of usual suspects and you’ll find a veritable winter wonderland of seasonal songs. Full-length festive LPs from Billy Childish, Aidan Moffat and Low all come heartily recommended. For indiepop lovers, the yearly Cherryade Records compilation is more fun than a barrel of mince pies swimming in cranberry sauce. It’s a passion I clearly share with alt-country outlaw, Johnny Dowd. The Texas-born troubadour has been slipping Christmas songs into my subconscious for years. Xmas 2021 collects four of his finest and adds a previously unreleased cover of Silent Night.

“There’s no joy in Christmas without her/ I’m too sad to be gay” comes Dowd’s shaky Texan drawl on the mood-setting, Christmas Is Just Another Day. As the drunken fairground waltz skips along it’s clear that we’re a long way from Wham. The track finds Dowd alone and singing a painfully intimate song for his dearly departed mother, “all the children laugh and sing/ songs my mother taught to me/ Lord, I miss her terribly”. The chorus offers up some sage advice as it reminds us, don’t forget your Mum at Christmas. Loneliness soaked in idiosyncratic charm and (I’d imagine) a fair amount of premium port. The track originally appeared on 2004’s excellent Cemetery Shoes and captures that dark, near indefinable, Johnny Dowd spirit.

So Johnny, what’s the second song on your Xmas EP called? Ah, Death Comes Knocking. Those looking for some background music to play while serving up the turkey Twizzlers aren’t going to find it with this track from 2000’s Temporary Shelter. If, on the other hand, you’re after something more akin to Cash and Waits playing discordant, ramshackle blues then you’re in for a real treat. Kim Sherwood-Caso’s backing vocals add further menace to this deliciously dark, deep cut. Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without the classics. Dowd and Co turn the light-hearted, festive fun of Jingle Bells into a scrambled and thoroughly filthy, lo-fi funk. A brilliantly weird rendition from 2002’s, The Pawnbrokers Wife. Oh my, it really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Separate Beds (also from The Pawnbrokers Wife) ensures all festive topics are covered with a jaunty acoustic, alt-country duet about divorce. Amongst the scenes of domestic heartbreak, Sherwood-Caso and Dowd croon, “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year/ not much left keeping us here/ the kids are grown/ scattered far and wide/ January 1st is the day our love died”. Take that Wizard! The EP ends with a wonderfully wonky and beautifully melancholic take on Silent Night. Dowd describes the track as a cross between Johnny Mathis and Alvin and the Chipmunks. Both are known for writing seasonal songs too (oh yeah, Alvin, Simon and Theodore are practically the Lennon and McCartney of Christmas).

If you’re reading this and you don’t already know Johnny Dowd then what are you waiting for? Try listening to Pictures From Life’s Other Side, Cemetery Shoes, Do The Gargon and the wonderfully titled, That’s Your Wife On The Back Of My Horse. That selection of recommendations may change depending on the day, you really can’t go wrong with any of his albums. Dig deep my friends, you won’t regret it. Xmas 2021 is a great little introduction to a genuine outsider artist, a real hidden gem and a true original. Tom Waits is a fan and you really should be too. So, no matter what kind of Christmas you’re having this year, ensure you give the EP a listen and raise a glass to the magnificent Mr. Johnny Dowd.

~

You can find Johnny Dowd on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and on his website.

All words by Andy Brown. You can visit his author profile and read more of his reviews for Louder Than War here.

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Hi. Andy Brown here. I wrote a tonne of reviews for Soundblab Alternative Music between 2010 -2020. Very excited to be writing for the excellent Louder Than War!

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