October 27, 2017 (Press Release) - Austin, TX-based psych/Americana artist Johnny Dango has officially announced his new LP, Dear Everybody, I Love You. Along with the announcement, Dango shared the album's first single, "Too Late," at Glide Magazine, who praised Dango's brand of "rollicking, animated Americana." Dear Everybody, I Love You is out January 19.
Gonzo songwriter Johnny Dango's music is a confluence of country and rock, with a hefty sense of self-satire. His sound ranges all of tornado alley, from the folky roots of Stillwater to the gospel soul of Tulsa. Acoustic social critiques, intellectual southern rock, and psychedelic country have become his trademarks. He's shared the stage with greats like Wayne Kramer of MC5, Jerry Jeff Walker, Alejandro Escovedo, and Billy Joe Shaver. He's been featured in No Depression, HuffPost, and PopMatters as one of Austin's rebellious stalwarts, swimming against the tide in an expanding echo-chamber of Americana, writing smart songs that confound genre.
On his new album Dear Everybody, I Love You, he battles with the concept of time, and questions his efficacy as a songwriter. He asks out loud whether playing barroom rock is the sole benefit he's meant to provide, or if this is just another vanity project keeping the news cycle of elections and reality television alive. He's made sure to examine himself with as much humor as he has the world around him.
"If I Had The Time" opens the album with a bluesy telecaster riff. Johnny makes a "joyful noise' with a chorus of background singers. It's a song about seeking time to write more, read more, create more. Johnny jokes "I never do answer the question of whether or not I have the time." An in-pocket rhythm section and bright piano and guitar pop up on "Too Late", an upbeat number about the deleterious effects of stress over unfinished business. "Drive You" opens with crashing cymbals and piano. It's a rock song about the simple pleasure of a day trip. Distorted guitar feels like the rush of the open road, piano twinkles like the passing of fence posts out the window of a speeding car.
Dango tells stories like a philosopher asking life's important questions. His songs are country western koans, meditative riddles that may pave the way to enlightenment, though they have no right answer. He was born in Stillwater, Oklahoma, a bookworm with sensitive antennae, able to observe the world around him and translate it into writing. The OSU English major had a bent for journalism but was "bit by the songwriting bug" by the time he played his first gig. He moved on to Austin, and took jobs as a substitute teacher, waiter, cook, bartender, and blackjack dealer to support his music making habits. His uproarious record Recluse In Plain Sight from earlier this year accentuated his ability to synthesize his influences. His latest was recorded live in studio at The Bubble over three days with friends in Austin. It captures an immediacy: "these are songs I knew really well. I'd been playing them for myself a lot, in my living room, and a couple of them were older tunes I'd had for awhile. The band learned the songs fast. Every track we used was the second or maybe third take"—an impressive accomplishment considering the songs are potently psychoactive, conjuring cinematic visions.
Even Dango is just now coming to understand what a couple of the songs are about. "Laughing Larry's Longer Lament" begins with electric slide guitar, and emotive piano chords. Johnny sings "Ain't nothing much new happening under the sun / It's just a life we all live til we're done". It was written five years ago, and came to Johnny all at once on his porch over morning coffee, after one of his last visits with his 101 year old grandmother. "I thought it was terrible that she'd lived so long and then in the end got cancer," he says, now realizing the song was a cathartic release, a helplessness blues about the futility we've all met with. At six minutes long the song is so relatable you never want it to end.
"New Modern Age" was written in 2010 as an attempt at a sardonic, humorous piece aimed at hipsters responsible for the swift gentrification of large parts of Austin. The song turned out darker than he thought it would be. About fashion and trendiness he sings, "The west has been settled for a long time / but now the 19th century's in style once again / when my rebellion has been pacified / where's the morphine for a slow suicide / where's the kerosene, I'm burning with rage / lets burn it all down, this new modern age." Johnny has also met the recent changes in Austin with fire on the the psychedelic Balkan beat burner "Concrete To Grass."
His melancholy stems from the way time passes out of our control. “Maybe we don’t need so many beer drinkin', down by the river, trying to get laid songs." He feels the need to do something more tangible, a problem that has plagued even the great topical songwriters like Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan. But like his musical inspirations and forebears, he's continuing to write the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction legend.
From afar it's easy to see the path Dango has blazed. He's a journalistic songwriter, able to capture the energy --as well as the ennui, of living in our time. With everything from nuclear annihilation to the music industry in question, Dango is our man in the streets reporting back. By placing himself squarely at the center of his stories, he's captured the common man in uncommon times. It's an American realism that does not disappoint. His songs fight the gravity of responsibility, with humor, lively riffs, and an editorial style of writing.
Dear Everybody, I Love You is summed up in the acoustic version of "Strange To Change" that ends the album. Johnny intones with just acoustic guitar and harmonica, "The old gang hardly ever comes around / lately you've been thinking that you might check out of town / try something new / I might too, at least for a while / and try to smile."
Dear Everybody, I Love You is out January 19, 2018.