six strings and 13 pop songs

Into the Liquid Sky (Tom Browning)
Tom Browning

By Allen Howie

Louisville's Tom Browning does at least three things right on his self-produced album, Into the Liquid Sky. First, he's written (or co-written) thirteen solid pop tunes, a melodic baker's dozen. Second, he's filled the record with guitar work that is consistently engaging, calling to mind John Fahey's acoustic lilt and Robin Trower's electric sting. And third, he's chosen his supporting musicians with care, especially drummers Bob Chapman and Max Maxwell, both of whom exhibit a level of finesse and confidence that's increasingly rare in pop music today.

Into the Liquid Sky succeeds through it's attention to such details. Like Steely Dan in the '70s, Browning manages to blend finesse and feeling, expertise and emotion. His guitar solos demonstrate both his considerable dexterity and his understanding of the power of a single sustained note left hanging in the air.

Browning's songwriting ability shines brightest on pop delights like "Let It Rain," the McCartneyesque charm of "Our Romance," and the fanciful swing of "And the Indians." He takes a relaxed approach in his exploration of musical styles, as seen in the gentle reggae bounce of "Darkside" and the Latin kick of "False Alarm."

Patti Hagewood's smooth, expressive lead vocals work nicely on the five songs she handles, while Browning's own singing on the same number of tunes is equally pleasant. The record also contains three instrumentals: the lovely "Three Centres," a mildly jazzy "Gabriel" and the cacophonous swirl of the title track.

Into the Liquid Sky is available from ear X-tacy, Better Days Records, and Stonefish. Or you can buy it from the artist himself; Tom Browning sells the cassette at his regular gigs with the Merry Pranksters at Jockamo's on Sunday nights and with Sunblast at the Cherokee Blues Pub on Tuesday nights.