Singer-songwriter and rock musician Jackson Browne has released his 15th studio album Downhill everywhere July 23.
Over the past five decades, Browne has carved out an identity for himself as a maker of songs that alternate between introspective and political lyrics combined with engaging melodies and catchy rock beats. While he specialized in acoustic ballads to some extent, Browne’s most popular songs have always exhibited powerful and energetic hooks on which he hangs his musical hat.
In the songs on the new album, all written before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Browne, 72, continues in that direction. For listeners who know their back catalog, Descent from everywhere moves in familiar territory; for those new to Jackson Browne, there is more than enough accessible music and plain language here to engage and hold listeners’ interest.
It’s been seven years since Browne’s last record and, as he explained earlier, he prefers to take his time writing and recording new tracks. Asked about releasing a pre-pandemic music album, Browne told GRAMMY.com: âIt always takes me several years to make a record because it takes me so long to write songs that I love. don’t write a lot of songs. I start a lot of songs, but I don’t finish a lot of songs. So it’s just my process. But it’s weird to finish something and have to wait. The album had to initially released last fall but was postponed by the pandemic.
The singer also tested positive for COVID-19 in March 2020 and was one of the first artists to speak publicly about it. At the time, Browne said Rolling stone, “So many people who have it are not going to be tested. They don’t have symptoms, but they might have them and might be able to pass it on. That’s what young readers need to understand: they need to participating in the global response to stop the spread. It means not going anywhere, not making contact with anyone, not seeing anyone. “
The new record begins with the track “Still Looking for Something,” where Browne evokes themes from his oldest and most popular albums and, like many of his generation, looks into the not-so-distant future of a career. which ends. :
And I’m always looking for something
Way past my due date, baby, I am
Always looking for something in the night
I know i’m going somewhere
We’re all dreaming of somewhere, baby
We all wanna go where life is bright
You don’t wanna end up nowhere, but you could
Browne wants his audience to know that he hasn’t given up and that he has something more to say and shows that he still has a critical eye on the company:
I’ll keep my options open, though I hope
For something that I can hold up to the light
I don’t know I’ll find it, or the moving smile behind
If all I find is freedom, it’s alright
Browne is identified with a popular Californian music trend associated with the Laurel Canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles which includes Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the Mamas and the Papas, Carole King and members of the Eagles such as like Don Henley and Glenn Frey. They were for a time a tight-knit group who shared songs and performed together, often incorporating Latin, country, folk, and bluegrass themes into their music.
These influences are present on Browne’s Descent from everywhere with a typical Caribbean rhythm on “Love is Love” and Latin rhythms on “The Dreamer”. The first track deals with the hardships of life in Haiti and also appears on a compilation titled Let the Rhythm Drive: Song Summit in Haiti by Artists for Peace and Justice. On this last track, about an immigrant crossing the border with the United States to find her father, as he has done several times before, Browne sings in Spanish:
A dÃ³nde van los sueÃ±os (Where do the dreams go?)
Nacidos de la fe et la ilusion (Born of faith and delusion)
Donde no hay camino ni huella (Where there is no road and no footprints)
Solo deseos that susurran al corazÃ³n? (Only the desires that whisper to the heart)
Speaking to GRAMMY.com about his desire to continue writing and performing songs with socially conscious messages, Browne said, âI’ve always wanted music to be engaging without even listening to the lyrics. I felt like the lyrics were there for anyone who wanted them. I always want to make sure that you aren’t paying for the substance or the content by putting the music in second place.
Browne hit his target again on the 10 track album with extensive collaboration from a group of musicians that includes Greg Leisz on slide guitar, Val McCallum on electric guitar and vocals and the excellent work of Leslie Mendelson. who shares vocals with Browne. on “A Human Touch”.
While it’s true that the quality of the musical element of his writing made audiences come back for Jackson Browne, it’s also true that his lyrical gifts have kept listeners eager to hear what he means. For many, it is this combination that makes it different.
The title track “Downhill from Everywhere” – released as a single just before Earth Day 2021 (April 22) – is one example. The track begins with a rock drum beat with punctuated electric guitars as Browne begins to list what appears to be a random list of things:
Descent from the prison
Descent from the shopping center
Descent of the industrial farm and the hospital
Descent of the border wall
But the list of things going downhill turns out to be the transmission of plastic pollution from “everywhere” to the ocean as Browne asks the question, “Do you think of the ocean as you do?”
Browne asks more questions about the album, for example on âUntil Justice is Realmâ, where he sings in chorus âWhat is democracy? What’s the deal? What will it look like? How would he feel? “
Perhaps more than any other rock musician to achieve mass popularity from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, Browne – who was a songwriting prodigy at Elektra Records before the age of eighteen. – tried to criticize the disillusion that followed the dissipation of the protest and the âcounter-cultureâ youth movement of the time. Whether the criticism was not vehement enough or angry enough has something to do with the 1960s-1970s music scene of which he was a part. These musicians were sensitive, intelligent, sophisticated; they were also somewhat complacent, isolated and removed from the problems of broad sections of the population. They opposed the emergence of Reaganism, but their protests were stifled.
Either way, the “installation” that occurred from the mid-1970s onwards is dealt with in the title track from Browne’s 1976 album. The pretender , where he sings: “I’m going to rent a house in the shade of the highway, I’m going to cook my breakfast in the morning and go to work every day.”
Over the decades, Jackson Browne has opposed American militarism and the wars of the past twenty years – and has written about it in his songs – and has been involved in fundraising for many charities. He has operated extensively in the orbit of the Democratic Party, including supporting John Kerry’s 2004 election campaign, along with other left-wing liberal artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley and Bonnie Raitt, and John Edwards’ failed campaign. for the Democratic Presidential Nomination in 2008. Browne also made occasional forays in the direction of Ralph Nader and the Greens.
Also in 2008, Browne sued the Republican Party and presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign for using his song “Running on Empty” without permission. In the 2012 election, Browne said he was planning to vote for Obama but was not enthusiastic about it. He said PoliticsHonestly, Obama has once again joined the ranks of the lesser of two evils. The great parade of people progressives vote for, who are the lesser of two evils, and who don’t really represent what I believe in an overwhelming balance.
Browne continued of Obama, âHe’s just as indebted to the people who put him in office as any Republican would be. But what is a mystery to me is how he installed pretty much the exact same infrastructure in his administration that deals with finances that the administration we thought we had rejected. It really is a shock.
The singer refused to back Democrat Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 and her name is not on the list of celebrities who supported Joe Biden in 2020.
In an interview that year with the Independent, Browne commented, “This is the concern I have about democracy … It can be played by private interests, whether it be thief barons in the 1800s or industry. fossil fuels today. They drag our feet so that they can continue to make a fortune. “
He remains an interesting character.