September 13, 2023

Johnny Dowd: Is Heaven Real? How Would I Know

Musical maverick Johnny Dowd will release his new album Is Heaven Real? How Would I Know on October 1. His special blend of trashcan Americana is wrapped in a cloak of bluesy, jazzy and soulful music, fulfilling a lifelong dream of his: get a honky-tonk version of the Stax/Volt records vibe going. The tracks were recorded in Memphis at producer Bruce Watson's Delta-Sonic Sound, who joined forces with guitar player Will Sexton to let every musician shine. Dowd called Memphis home when he grew up and the sound of the city has been on the back of his mind ever since.

Is Heaven Real? How Would I Know is a change of pace for Dowd, but it is also a natural extension of his musical palette. If anything, his voice is a dead giveaway: he is the cool uncle at a family gathering telling tall tales about his life, when he fell in and out love, starting ate the tender age of 11 (Ice Pick). Jerry Lee Lewis gets a nod in All Shook Up, but in this case the "great balls of fire" are linked to some sort of warning: "The past is always gonna eat the future. That’s why you got to practise the Kama Sutra".

Dowd is backed by his longtime collaborators, his sister Jif Dowd (drums) and Mike Edmondson (guitar) plus a bunch of ace players from the Memphis music scene. Bass player and singer Amy LaVere commandeers the spotlight in the drinking song Hope, trying to steer the protagonist from imbibing yet another shot. He was obviously having a ball cutting the tracks for this album. With a full band having his back and pushing him forward, he can declare proudly that he has ran into both Custer and Robert E. Lee while tripping on LSD or Hannibal Lecter in the self-deprecating , and return safely to write and record a song about it.

Johnny Dowd: vocals, guitar
Jif Dowd: drums
Mike Edmondson: guitar
Will Sexton: guitar
Amy LaVere: bass, vocals
Rick Steff: piano
Alex Greene: organ, trombone
Jim Spake: reeds
Krista Lynne Wroten: fiddle, vocals
Will McCarley: percussionists
Shawn Zorn: percussionists

Johnny Dowd: Is Heaven Real? How Would I Know

Is Heaven Real? How Would I Know will be available on vinyl via Brightspark Records. The cover art was created by Jon Langford. Release date: October 1.

  1. Another Mule
  2. Is Heaven Real?
  3. Ice Pick
  4. Pillow
  5. All Shook Up
  6. Hope
  7. LSD
  8. Fire and Dust
  9. Me
Live dates:
  • 09/24 Ithaca, NY @ Porchfest Ithaca
  • 10/26 Nashville, TN @ The Underdog
  • 10/27 Water Valley, MS @ Voyager's Rest
  • 10/29 Waverly, Alabama @ Standard Deluxe Inc.
    (w/ Amy LaVere)

European tour + Host a house party with Johnny
Johnny and his band will be on the road in Europe (March 9-20). Interested parties are encouraged to get in touch if they want them to perform at their house. Or send an email to Venue owners please use Here are the dates:

  • 03/11 and 03/12 between or near Barnoldwick, UK and Hassocks, UK
  • 03/19 between or near London, UK and Den Bosch, The Netherlands
  • 03/24 between Utrecht, Netherlands and Z├╝rich, Switzerland
  • 03/28 between Karlsruhe, Germany and Antwerp, Belgium


HCTF review of Johnny's tunes for Special Occasions.

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