Johnny Dowd

Wake Up the Snakes

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By the time of this 2010 release, Johnny Dowd wasn't quite as crazed or eccentric a roots rocker as he'd been at the outset of his career. The music was still plenty eccentric, however, and more accessible as these things go, though still creepy enough to place it far outside the mainstream. Wake Up the Snakes, as befitting its title, is swampy rock with a streak of voodoo, enhanced not just by Dowd's vaguely menacing vocals and lyrics, but also by Michael Stark's prominent horror-rock organ. A good share of the vocals are taken by Kim Sherwood as well as Dowd, and her more plaintive style actually acts as a good foil to Dowd's more acerbic delivery. At times this verges, in a good way, on the kind of lounge music you'd hear in the waiting room of a funeral parlor, were there a demand for such a thing. But it's not all ghoulish. There's a good dose of strangled blues in the mix, as well as some boisterous New Orleans-style trombone on "Fat Joey Brown"; tongue-in-cheek echoes of doo wop on "Lies"; and humor, albeit of the gallows kind, on songs like "Demons and Goats" (sic). There are still genuine intimations of madness, however, in songs like "Voices," where Dowd drawls, "I wish the voices in my head would shut up!" And there's still plenty of room for other misfits, too, with references to a swamp woman, cannibalism, and the like. Overall, it could hit the spot for people who'd like something along the lines of the Cramps' voodoo rock, but with more variety and without that band's propensity for overdone kitsch.