WHO THE HELL IS JONNY CORNDAWG?
originally published on thepeoplesmusic.us
Who the hell is Jonny Corndawg? Well, that’s a reasonable question. Performing under a state-fair-sounding moniker, clad in an American flag shirt with an eagle medallion and singing “When a Ford Man Turns to Chevy,” could cause plenty of people to write him off as an ironic character, parodying country music for the delight of Williamsburg blipsters, but that’s not right. One could spend hours peeling away the layers of Jonny Corndawg, but the best way to sum him up is: a guy who writes and sings really cool songs… and just happens to be an absurdly skilled leather craftsman and airbrush artist.
Sure, he’s a character, but he’s a character in the sense your grandparents use the word, not somebody who puts on a costume and recites scripted lines at a rehearsal. His songs are at times funny, but he’s no joke. After all, country music and comedy have a long running relationship, and I’m not talking about “Here’s Your Sign” or “Hee-Haw.” Some of the best country songs of all time have had absurdist lyrics and often poke fun at their own genre. A self-aware hillbilly is both hilarious and disarmingly insightful.
It’s a strange time for genuine music that occasionally pokes fun at itself. The past decade brutally murdered irony, but it also left a generation-and-a-half with an odd authenticity vacuum that forced a lot of people to question what they sincerely appreciate, and it also opened up a lot of youngish people to music, culture, and art that had once been written off as outlandish or even tacky by recent generations and the mainstream. Sure, maybe the first time you tried Pabst, you laughed and joked about it, but let’s be honest, it tastes better than Bud Light, has no obnoxiously degrading marketing campaign and is a few bucks cheaper. Maybe you did grow your first mustache for some pretentious “Redneck Party” that a hot girl threw, but the next day you realized that a mustache isn’t always a joke. Hell, mustaches have been around a lot longer than you and that sorority girl who kept laughing at it, so why judge it?
Despite most stereotypes about the South, true country music lacks judgment of things that are different—if you like it, go ahead, drink it, wear it, or sing it. But for a long time, country music has been about rules. Hell, by the time David Allen Coe recorded “You Never Even Called Me by My Name” even outlaw country had strict boundaries, and the only way to break through them was to sing about them. Is that song ironic? Maybe, maybe not, but who gives a shit? It’s a great song.
When I first heard “Keep Your Body Healthy Through Exercise” and Jonny sang the lyrics “drink water and juice with a little slice of lemon/ eat a raw clove of garlic every once and a while/ meditate, appreciate, learn a foreign language, and understand that immigrants have the hardest lives,” in an almost Raffi-like educational tone, I chuckled a little. The immigrant line is funny, but hey, it’s true, and if it takes telling it to America like we’re kids, so be it. And you can’t argue with the lyrics, “there’s two simple things we should teach to the children: be grammatically correct and keep an open mind.” Kids can be such ill-speaking dicks, but, as the Bible says, “hate the breeder not the breed,” or something like that.
Jonny’s not like other country acts, and he’s not like other alt-country acts. He’s a throwback, but he also couldn’t exist in any era but today. You could probably describe his music as lo-fi garage country with tinges of a punk rock attitude, but it might be best just to call it corndawg music for corndawg people. You can check out some of his songs and order an airbrushed pet portrait t-shirt on his myspace page or just go pickup his album I’m Not Ready to Be a Daddy.