Crooked Roads
"Love, Again"
by Johanna J. Bodde


"These songs are all about love," according to the man who wrote them for the album "Love, Again". "Mostly the mess love gets us into." See, that makes me sit straight up immediately! The singer-songwriter we're talking about, answers to the name Chris Dingman, he's originally from New Hampshire but landed in California, where he realized that the career of a scenario writer wasn't his thing after all. But at twenty-one, after hearing Dylan's "Freewheeling", he had picked up a guitar... "His rough edges made you feel like you could do it too."
Then it's only a little addition sum before that CD sees the light, lay-out with nice pictures of roads that brings us in the right mood, recorded in San Jose and Berkeley, with a loose collective of musicians that Chris baptized as "Crooked Roads", after a quote of William Blake: "Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement, are roads of Genius." He mentions no less than fourteen names as his musical influences, beginning with Gram Parsons. Just like Gram he's not a marvellous singer, slightly unsteady sometimes, although he never really messes up. But he sounds very friendly indeed and even makes us think briefly of Sid Griffin every now and then.
The melody takes center stage in the songs, they go from R.E.M.-kloning with electric (slide-) guitarwall along Flying Burrito Brothers type of thing with piano or pedal steel and ballad with cello, towards approximately the Bakersfield sound of Buck Owens. Mr. Dingman sure can write smart songs, he always starts out finding the "good hook". So the ex is being addressed with humor and malice, coming from sorrow or anger or loneliness. The album ends with "Baby, Just Forget", a very original marriage proposal.
(Crooked Roads recently released an album with the inventive title "Heartbreak Sampler".)
Written by Johanna J. Bodde, February 2004. (Never published before.)