× Johnny Dowd releases "Is Heaven Real?" and announces European tour dates

Johnny Dowd releases "Is Heaven Real?" and announces European tour dates


Johnny Dowd releases "Is Heaven Real?", his 25th studio album and announces European tour dates.

I never wanted to be a songwriter,” recalls singer/guitarist Johnny Dowd. It's a strange confession from one of America's most evocative wordsmiths. But when it became a matter of sink or swim, back around 1988, he dove in the deep end. “I was in a Memphis/Texas swamp blues band,” he says, “but then the singer quit — and he was the only one who was enough of a musician to learn a song off a record and show it to us. I couldn't figure out how to do that! So I said, 'Fuck it' and started writing songs — just so we could play.

Now, as Brightspark Records releases Dowd's 25th studio album and first full length vinyl, Is Heaven Real? How Would I Know, two things from that time still resonate today: his uncanny way with a haunting song, and the city of Memphis. The group he led through his first originals became Neon Baptist, but by the mid- '90s Dowd went solo and self-released his debut, Wrong Side of Memphis. As songs like “Murder,” “Ft. Worth, Texas,” and “John Deere Yeller” made clear from the start, the rock he built his songs on was a forlorn outcropping of life in deepest, darkest, weirdest America. And they struck a nerve. Somehow, Memphis embodied that — and  he knew he had to go back.

I lived there from the time I was one to the time I was three or four,” Dowd says of the legendary river town, “and I lived there again during high school.” The sounds of Memphis stayed with him through life, even as he grew up in Oklahoma and finally settled in upstate New York. And so, in 2022, he returned to the Bluff City to make what may be his most personal album to date.
I've always had a bunch of good bands,” he says. “But the kind of band that I had in Memphis for this album, sounding like something off Stax/Volt records? That's the stuff that I grew up with, but I never recorded in that context at all. So it was like, 'Okay...This is it!'” 

Indeed, the air was charged at producer Bruce Watson's Delta-Sonic Sounds when some of Memphis' hippest players gathered to record with Dowd. In addition to his longtime bandmates, drummer Jif Dowd (his sister) and guitarist Mike Edmondson, Dowd had a slew of ringers: twin stars Will Sexton, who co-produced and played guitar, and Amy LaVere, on bass and vocals, a touring couple who embody the Great American Songbook; Rick Steff (Lucero) on piano; Alex Greene (Reigning Sound) on organ and trombone; Jim Spake (Lucero, Alex Chilton) on reeds; Krista Lynne Wroten (Memphis Dawls) on fiddle and vocals; and Will McCarley and Shawn Zorn adding percussion.

And yet, so varied and versatile were the players that what emerged was a far cry from any typical “Memphis Sound” album. Leaning into the weathered old world of Dowd's lyrics and voice, the band helped fashion a soundscape that's as earthy as an Oklahoma field, as sweet and soulful as a Memphis doughnut shop, as edgy as walking the rails over a river bridge.

With the new release come brand new tour dates. Johnny Dowd will be over in Europe all March:

08/03: Sheffield, UK - Greystones
09/03: North Yorkshire, UK - The Band Room
10/03: Barnoldwick, UK - Barnoldwick Music & Arts Centre
13/03: Hassocks, UK - Mid Sussex Music Hall
14/03: Nottingham, UK - The Running Horse
15/03: Bristol, UK - Thunderbolt
16/03: Bradford-on-Avon, UK - South Wraxall Club
17/03: London, UK - West Hampstead Arts Club
18/03: Menen, BE - Boegie Woegie
20/03: Den Bosch, NL - Willem Twee
21/03: Drachten, NL - Iduna
22/03: Arnhem, NL - Luxor Live
23/03: Utrecht, NL - TivoliVredenburg
25/03: Zürich, CH - El Lokal
26/03: Nürnberg, DE - Zentralcafe im Künstlerhaus
27/03: Karlsruhe, DE - KoHi
29/03: Antwerp, BE - Djingel Djangel
30/03: Rotterdam, NL - Roodkapje


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