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Music Review: Jackson Browne – Solo Acoustic, Vol.2

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If you’ve taken in one of Jackson Browne’s solo acoustic performances, you’re well aware of the distinct pleasure of that experience. A visceral energy fills the concert hall – an altogether different vibe than that of a show with a full band – where the audience is collectively invested and steeped in each song.

In 2005, Browne released Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1, which brilliantly showcased classics like “Fountain of Sorrow,” “Your Bright Baby Blues,” and “For A Dancer” in the context of these unique events. And now, the legendary singer/songwriter delivers an equally spectacular set of hits and album cuts on Solo Acoustic, Vol. 2.

The live and acoustic setting certainly reflects an intimate feel, yet the warm rapport between artist and audience comes across all the more. Browne’s gracious and often-amusing interaction with the crowd is included between some tracks, adding spontaneity and perspective to songs. Further, he doesn’t rely on a setlist, instead playing what he prefers or – more often than not – taking requests. “Oh, you want to hear that?” he asks before settling into “Somebody’s Baby” on the piano. Sometimes a request is more obscure, like one for “Redneck Friend,” but he obliges with a potent performance.

Alternating between piano and several acoustic guitars, Browne offers absorbing and soulful renditions of some of his finest compositions. On “Sky Blue and Black,” he immerses himself in the song’s sweeping melody, his voice rich with compassion. He plays “Alive In the World” and “In the Shape of a Heart” with similar conviction and conscience, painting both songs with fresh perception.

Four of the twelve tracks originated on Browne’s most recent studio release, The Naked Ride Home. Considering the breadth of his back catalog, that’s a large portion to pull from one album – especially one not considered among his seminal works – but the songs hold up surprisingly well. “The Night Inside Me” and “My Stunning Mystery Companion,” in particular, sound as relevant and touching as almost anything else on this collection.

While Solo Acoustic, Vol. 2 serves as the logical complement to its predecessor, it firmly stands on its own as an outstanding live album. Jackson Browne represents a masterful songwriter delivering one great song after another. Few do it this well and with this much integrity.

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About Donald Gibson

Donald Gibson is the publisher of www.writeonmusic.com and a freelance music journalist whose byline has appeared in such publications as No Depression, Spinner, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, Cinema Sentries, Blinded by Sound, and Blogcritics, where he was the Senior Music Editor (2011-2012) and Assistant Music Editor (2008-2011). He has interviewed and profiled such artists as Tony Bennett, Lucinda Williams, Jakob Dylan, Allen Toussaint, Boz Scaggs, Charli XCX, Justin Hayward (The Moody Blues), Susanna Hoffs, Bruce Hornsby, Delbert McClinton, Jonny Lang, Alan Parsons, Bill Frisell, Joan Armatrading, Christina Perri, Don Felder (The Eagles), Jimmy Webb, Katie Melua, and Buddy Guy, among many others.
  • http://www.butterflyfiction.com/journal Connie Phillips

    Congrats! This article has been forwarded to the Advance.net websites and Boston.com.

  • http://donaldgibson.blogspot.com/ Donald Gibson

    Thank you very much, Connie.

    Donald

  • http://midwesternsongs.blogspot.com/ Chuck

    Hi Donald,

    I enjoyed the review. Thanks! I’m looking forward to seeing Jackson Browne in Mesa in April. Also, looking forward to picking up the CD. He is truly one of the great songwriters of his generation.

  • http://back-to-the-egg.blogspot.com/ Ginger Haycox

    Great review & so completely accurate. I got the cd on pre-order & just continue to like it better with each listen.

    I can no longer keep track of how many Jackson Browne concerts I’ve attended – more than 15. He still ranks as one of my favorite entertainers today. Some years ago now, he had a solo acoustic concert in Canandaigua NY & of all his concerts, that one still stands out, purely because of his rapport with the audience that night. He had just learned that a good friend of his attending the concert had lost his father. The friend requested that Jackson sing For A Dancer which of course, he did.

    Sitting at the piano, he got thru’ the first verse but when he began the second –
    “I don’t know what happens when people die
    Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try,
    It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear,
    That I can’t sing”,

    he couldn’t continue. He sat for a moment playing the melody on the piano & then said simply “Shit! I forgot the words”. The audience took over from there.
    It still makes me tear up to this day.
    He’s one of the best lyricists of our time, imo.

  • http://www.myspace.com/hawaiianalaskan Chris Wilhelm

    These two albums demonstrate what a superior musician JB is. Leave the band at home, you don’t need ‘em. The Vol.1 has more memorable tunes incl. some slide work that is just masterful. Vol 2 stands on its own very well.

    He’ll never play in Ketchikan, Alaska, but these albums are the next best thing.