I was going to start this review by saying Michael
Jerome Browne is a jack-of-all-root-music-styles. From blues to
country to Appalachian mountain music, Cajun, swing, R&B – he can do it all.
It’s a bit of understatement, though, to call him a
jack-of-all-roots-music-styles when, in fact, he’s a master of most of those
styles. He’s got encyclopedic knowledge of the music he plays, a giant
repertoire drawn from the legendary artists who pioneered the various genres
he plays, and – with songwriting and life partner B.A. Markus – has created
a significant body of original material that stands tall with the
time-tested standards he plays.
While Michael plays a variety of styles, and just about any instrument with
strings, blues has been the dominant genre in his repertoire, much of it
from the first few decades of the recording era in the American South (or
inspired by that early music).
Whether or not you buy into the mythology of
Robert Johnson at the crossroads at midnight, that kind of blues can be
a scary music that delves deeply into the dark places of the soul. And
that’s where Michael takes us on many of the songs on The Road is Dark – six
taken from tradition and/or earlier artists, eight created by Michael and B.