By Beth Johnson
Updated June 23, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Drawn to the shadows? Then you might run into Johnny Dowd — an out-of-a-dimestore-novel character who started making albums eight years ago, at 50. Here Dowd continues crafting extraordinary Beefheartian Gothic-rock tales of the disenfranchised. There’s plenty of his discomfiting growl and dark wit (”Momma snorting coke and eating a Moon pie”) on Cruel Words. But on his sixth disc — his most tuneful and accessible — there are raucous sing-alongs too, including one with the Mekons’ Sally Timms and Jon Langford (”Drunk”). It’s an outsider-art show come to life.

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