wed 17/07/2019

CD: Jackson Browne - Standing in the Breach | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Jackson Browne - Standing in the Breach

CD: Jackson Browne - Standing in the Breach

Political rants and Byrdsian jangle on songwriter's 14th studio album

Can singer-songwriters heal the world?

Jackson Browne's output has slowed since the mid-Nineties, and this arrives six years after Time the Conqueror. The latter was much preoccupied with the Bush administration and the Iraq war, and Standing in the Breach – with a sleeve depicting a war-ravaged African village – is still stamped with Browne's social and political concerns. "Take the money out of politics and maybe we might see /This country turn back into something more like democracy," he rages in "Which Side", an extended tirade about greed and political corruption he first played at the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2012. As for the title tune, it's a furrowed-brow plea for a better world which may never come to pass.

Happily, most of the other songs are more interiorised and less finger-pointing. Connoisseurs will be intrigued by the opener, "The Birds of St Marks", which Browne originally wrote for Nico in the Sixties. He says he always imagined it sounding like the Byrds, and here it's lit up by Greg Leisz's Roger McGuinn-style 12-string jangle. Also arriving by a circuitous route is "You Know the Night", a letter from Woody Guthrie to his wife which Browne has set to a jumping country/folk beat decorated with guitar and dobro.

The quality of his backing musicians is one of the disc's saving graces, and even a mundane piece like "If I Could Be Anywhere" is salvaged somewhat by a long instrumental coda featuring a very live-sounding interplay of guitars, piano and organ. The band also have a shrewd grasp of when less is more, as on the sparse but effective "Yeah Yeah" or "Walls and Doors", whose melancholic chord sequence flashes back to "Late for the Sky".

Jackson always sounded nostalgic even when he was barely out of his teens, and "The Long Way Around" broods about how the world has changed since his wild and free youth ("It's never been that hard to buy a gun / Now they'll sell a Glock 19 to just about anyone"). More cheerful is "Leaving Winslow", a riding-the-railroad hoedown which tips the wink to the Arizona town he once memorialised in "Take It Easy". This isn't the greatest album he ever made, but it has enough standout moments to lure Browne fans to his UK gigs in November.

Jackson always sounded nostalgic even when he was barely out of his teens

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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