Jackson Browne, Standing in the Breach (Inside Records, 2014)
The name of Jackson Browne’s most recent studio album suggests a call to resistance and — in part — it is. The title track begins with an apocalyptic reference to cracking foundations and a confident assertion that we will work together to save the world. In the preceding track Browne asks the listener, “which side are you on?” But given his description of the “other side,” anyone who has not had a lobotomy could not help but side with Browne. That is not to say that Browne’s description of the “other side” is off base, but it does leave the song bordering on cheerleading. Judged by a remark Browne made in an interview with Rock Cellar Magazine, “I don’t want to preach to or harangue people; I want to catch their interest,” neither “Which Side?” and “Standing in the Breach” nor “If I Could be Anywhere” — with their straightforward denunciations — deserves full marks.Browne’s playful songs, “Going to Winslow” and “You Know the Night,” are more interesting. In the latter he puts music to Woody Guthrie lyrics, words that might even take Thomas Aquinas, “the Angelic Doctor,” by surprise with references to angels who curl your hair. In the former, Browne has fun with an “oxygenarian” ladies man who favors Western Swing and Zen.
Most successful are the CD’s opening and closing tracks. Browne opens with a song he wrote for Nico back in the day when he arrived in New York City with $50 and got a gig playing guitar for her. As Nico would have wanted, the song features a Byrds twelve-string electric guitar part. The final song, the stark and sorrowful “Here,” suggests that the problems of the world pale in comparison to heartbreak.