Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The last time that I saw Jonny Corndawg was a few weeks ago in Nashville, Tennessee, where he calls home. He had been staying in this labyrinthine-like house of floors and hallways, with a hearth and a fireplace and some old and blank, personalized note pads that belonged to Johnny Cash. In a back room, there was a recording suite, where he was working on a new record, and upstairs and to the back of the house was a space where Corndawg was hard at work punching holes into some customized Daytrotter belts that he was making for me. When he'd visited Rock Island for this session last summer, he mentioned that he'd just gotten a great deal on some cowhide. He's a man who works with leather and loves doing so. He's just recently gotten a deal on some deer hide. And there he was, in this back room, banked by a kitchen at the far end, with clutter all over the tables and sides of the room listening to a cassette tape that made by a weird, basement-dwelling gothic man that he'd known from Philadelphia. He considered the tape - full of freakish ambient music and noise, with spoken word pieces that sounded like the poetry of one of hell's schizophrenic residents or just someone clearing hiding his daily medication under his tongue, pretending to swallow and then spitting it out at the next possible opportunity - a "really great tape." He has lots of these sorts of tapes, mesmerized by their bizarreness and interested in hearing the most fucked up - almost scary parts of them - LOUDER. It's this intrigue in what kinds of things come out of the many human mouths when they decide to use music as a medium - a channel to connect a thought to another. Corndawg, whose own songs seem to borderline on earnestness and parody - in the vein of Roy Rogers singing a version of "Happy Trails" and having the meaning of the song have something more to do with pubic hair and tits than wishing dear friends so-long as they mosey on down the road. But somehow, the earnest Corndawg still tends to win out, when we're to listen to these songs. In his thoughts about the five songs he recorded for this session, his ideas seem to be drawn from the skies like crazy lightening, strange buzzes that will make you loopy for a second, nailing him with an idea that he then feels compelled to communicate, no matter how off-color or graphic it may be. His mind is revealed in his songs and he makes no bones about it, letting the words just give what they've got to give and if some of the giving is "gross" or country and western bathroom humor, then so be it. His songs are flashes of the impulses that strike everyone, but most often they're suppressed by those people. However, they're not just that. They are odes to simple lives, to small towns that have a Pizza Hut, teenage pregnancy, a big bad football team that everyone's proud of, some deep fishing holes and not too much else. They are odes to the boredom that ravages people in those places sometimes. They are odes to twisted thoughts that can be argued to be just as much admissions of the heart and soul - that the heart and soul exist sound and strong - as songs and sentiments that are mistakenly taken to be those of endearing love. He sings, "When a Ford man turns to Chevy an angel gets its wings and the babies they won't ever cry no more," and he means it about those babies and those angels - wearing a big, fat CHEVY belt buckle on his belt to prove where his loyalties lie. It's not a joke, where he comes from and where he's coming from. It's this way of creating the blurred lines of folly and feeling that makes the man so charming in his views and in a classic country method that's always had its fair share of tongues in cheeks with its tears and beers. He's a freak-folker, by some definitions, and Nashville's first with cowboy boots and a mad crush on Mountain Dew.
Jonny Corndawg Official Site