Johnny Dowd

Acts Playing South by Southwest

SXSW Record Reviews

Johnny Dowd

Temporary Shelter (Koch)

Since releasing his startling debut Wrong Side of Memphis on Checked Past in 1997, Texas-born, Oklahoma-raised, upstate New York resident Johnny Dowd has toured all over and released a successful follow-up on Koch, 1999's Pictures From Life's Other Side. His latest, Temporary Shelter, is another chapter in his unexampled take on life's darker side. The song titles say it all: opener "Vengeance Is Mine," "Stumble and Fall," and the dirgefully apocalyptic Yuletide closer, "Death Comes a Knocking." As on his previous albums, Dowd's band creates music fit for the Ithaca-based singer's open-wound lyrics -- stark sonic splashes of organ, sparse drums, and ghostly vocals, all punctuated by the bandleader's disturbed Stratocaster emissions. Dowd's soundtrack to "News of the Weird" is so deep and honest that you fear how much of it is over-powerful imagination and how much is autobiographical, "Sky Above, Mud Below" being a good example. And while you could never mistake Dowd's Texoma drawl as that of a classically trained singer, you'd be hard pressed to find a vocalist who emits more dry and scary emotionality. In slight contrast to his earlier efforts, Temporary Shelter's songs are almost poetry with musical accompaniment -- as on the de facto title track "Hideaway." Yet, compared to his previous work, the 11 tunes here are also a bit more sonically experimental and self-indulgent. (Saturday, March 17, La Zona Rosa, 9pm)

**.5

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