Scott Severin knocked around the New York music scene for years, somehow winding up in Omaha sometime in the past decade. I don’t pretend to know his biography, but if his music is any indication he’s a grown up punk rocker with plenty of Clash, Dylan, Ochs, Waits, Cave, Zevon, Springsteen (his words, actually) in his collection. He recorded a forty-something debut called Unknown Rider upon settling in Omaha, a record I’ve yet to hear. Scott and I were introduced through a mutual friend and I asked him to send a copy of his second release Birdhouse Obbligato when it became available.
Glad I did. Severin’s work honors his mentors and most of it merits same breath mention. “Birdhouse” (the song, but not quite title track) has a Weill-ian menace that reminds me of Steve Wynn’s “My Old Haunts.” Actually, there’s a more general kinship between Severin’s work and Wynn’s. Severin’s delivery has the incantatory rhythms of Allen Ginsberg, but his vocal timbre and range remind me of Eric Anderson (think “I Shall Go Unbounded” more than “Blue River”), something in his enunciation too. “ And “Birdhouse’s” ‘sins that even Satan don’t allow’ suggests Nick Cave’s netherworld.
In the faded romance chronicle of “The Edge is Gone” and on ‘I Won’t Get on the Plane” I hear something of Richard Hell’s Kentucky by way of Lower East Side drawl. “Plane” and “I Don’t Know” would also sound right at home in the revived New York Dolls repertoire, especially the latter with it’s jaded Stones drive. “Even Jesus” links the Christian savior with Everyman, suggesting that like Johnny Thunders “even Jesus was born to lose.”