Johnny Dowd

Live shot

Phases & Stages
Photo By Courtney Chavanell

Johnny Dowd

Saxon Pub, Aug. 11

Dowd said it best: "An uneasy blend of James Brown and Gomer Pyle." There's a little more grit and feedback to it, but the Fort Worth-born, Oklahoma-raised singer-songwriter has swilled a mixture of Southern backwater noir and gospel New Wave blues. Dowd, who runs a trucking business in New York when he's not on the odd tour, read lyrics from a music stand and played power chords on his solid body Fender as drummer Brian Wilson and keyboardist Michael Stark finessed longtime closer "Johnny B. Goode" in the opening slot. That then segued into "Iron Man." Dowd's lyrics are inspired by one of the holy working-class trinities – women, booze, and Jesus – and his subject matter adhered to that on "Poverty House." The power-trio kicked into gear on the breakdown, crunchier than a Memphis driveway. "Ding Dong" reached a Waitsy twang before driving the mule into a guitar jam. The mostly middle-age crowd stayed seated until finally, halfway through a song about Dowd wanting to wear his bride's wedding dress, a lone blond woman slinked up to the front of the stage and danced Roadhouse-style. After that, Dowd announced he would read some poetry, which makes most folks nervous, but he tore through some anti-war/hurricane blues over a wave of ambient, free-jazz accompaniment. Dowd then dedicated a song to himself, a boozy ballad of the bottle, before augmenting a Thelonious Monk interlude with a dance segment. It would have been nice to hear some of Dowd's earlier, weirder fare, circa Wrong Side of Memphis, but the band managed to transplant us there anyway.

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