Severin Browne,
This Twisted Road
(self-produced, 2001)

The compositions on Severin Browne's This Twisted Road span almost a quarter of a century. Although most of them were written in the 1990s, the album also contains the 1978 "Sweet, Stupid Dreams." For this CD Browne has worked with a musical brother-in-arms (or "partner-in-crime," as he calls him), fellow Californian James Coberly Smith (see my review of his album Cocomo). On many of the tracks he provides either vocal or acoustic guitar backup, sometimes both.

Although a native from Frankfurt, Germany, Browne stems from a family of long-term L.A. residents, still inhabiting the Spanish-style ancestral home in the old part (in relative terms, I'm sure) of Los Angeles.

This Twisted Road is Browne's fourth album and his first since From the Edge of the World, which came out in 1995 after a very long interruption since his Motown releases in 1973 and 1974. This new CD therefore contains some more examples of 20 years of penned-up musical inspiration.

The opening number, "Don't Mistake the Singer for the Song," is proof of that. Vocals and acoustic guitars are craftily supported by the electric guitar of Ed Tree (who is also responsible for recording, mixing and co-producing this album) and JayDee Maness' steel guitar, which gives Browne's folk style a country twist.

One of the strongest numbers is "Do You Think I'll Go to Heaven," especially the harmonious chorus performed together with vocalist Debbie Pearls. The third track, "Water," has the same attractive chorus format, but something is wrong with the metrum and prosody of the lyrics. Unfortunately, this makes the song sound awkward at times. The same observation is also true for "You Can't Fool the Moon." But Browne makes good on that in the title song, "This Twisted Road." More roadwork is executed in the final track, "Roads." This soothing song with its philosophical lyrics is a well-chosen close to the album's theme.

Although none of the compositions have lost the '70s feel, it is the vintage "Sweet, Stupid Dreams" that provides the connection between the early albums and his more recent work. His musical versatility he demonstrates with the rock-like "Angelyne." Two other new millennium compositions are more mature. Both "Strange Life" and "My Midlife Crisis" bear testimony of the intervening two decades; between the early '70s debut album of a young Californian romantic and the middle-aged musician of today.

Browne's style fits in the same category as folksingers like James Taylor and the late Jim Croce, although it must be said that Browne is not as good a vocalist (which he admits himself on the album's flyer). But more important is probably his role as one of the guardians of the Californian folk music heritage. In that respect This Twisted Road is a fine depository of that valuable West-Coast musical legacy.

- Rambles
written by Carool Kersten
published 24 May 2003

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