West Virginia-raised Jonny Corndawg, the “country singer, not a singer-songwriter,” got a major publicity boost touring with Dawes and Middle Brother while promoting his sophomore release, Down on the Bikini Line. John J. McCauley III of Deer Tick and Middle Brother plays guitar on this album, and the resulting arrangements sound more fleshed out and genuine than on Corndawg’s first album, 2008’s I’m Not Ready To Be a Daddy. Lyrically similar to outlaw country notables Merle Haggard, John Prine, and Waylon Jennings, he sings lines like “Smoke drugs, make love, fuckin’ underwater” on “Chevy Beretta” and bemoans female woes like bikini lines and feminine hygiene products.
Corndawg avoids coming across as insulting with a preternatural grasp of honky-tonk, bluegrass, traditional, and outlaw country music. Lyrics like “with God as my witness/I don’t care where I go” and others that compare the virtues of Chevys and Fords both demonstrate Corndawg’s serious knowledge and appreciation of more contemporary (and possibly commercial) aspects of the genre. It keeps songs like “Life of a Bear” and his snarkier lyrics from sounding patronizing to fans of more established country musicians.
His lyrics can still sometimes be read as insulting (with regard to a woman’s bikini line: “I tried to cross the border/But I got pulled over/By the forest marshal on the forest line”), but ultimately, they’re too clever to not be funny. An a capella duet with up-and-coming female country singer Caitlin Rose on “Silver Panty Liners” should also boost his popularity with the female population; the song also manages to be stirring despite its subject matter. A versatile lyricist and singer, Corndawg restrains his stylistic yodel for slower numbers like the Tejano-influenced “Night Rider”, which discusses drunk drivers, or “Undercover Dad”, a track about potentially inappropriate relationships. His voice hits a quieter, smoother register that diversifies an album that would otherwise be defined by songs like “Red on the Head” (“like a dick on a dog”). Ultimately, Corndawg’s voice and sense of humor trump any uncomfortable subject matter.
Essential Tracks: “Shaved Like a Razor”, “When a Ford Man Turns to Chevy”