If you’ve not had the fortune of seeing one of the series of solo acoustic concerts Jackson Browne has performed around the world the last few years, his new Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1 brings some of it into your living room or vehicle.
The solo shows were often in smaller, intimate venues. It was not uncommon for fans to call out song titles and for Browne, alone on stage with a piano and approximately a dozen different acoustic guitars, to play whatever request struck his fancy.
Released on Inside Recordings, an independent label Browne founded in 1999, the disc attempts to capture the tone and feeling of these shows. It contains 12 cuts and is just what the shows consisted of — the songwriter alone with a piano and his acoustic guitars and engaging in a variety of exchanges with the audience. By including songs from throughout his lengthy career, Browne makes this an effort to reach as many fans as possible. In addition, the CD also marks the commercial debut of “The Birds of St. Marks,” a song more than 30 years old but not previously commercially released.
Given the setting of their original recordings, some of the songs — “These Days” and “Everyman” for example — seem to naturally fit a solo acoustic performance. Yet whether with his voice, his playing or both, Browne seems to instill them with a variations in nuance and feel. Other songs adapt remarkably well to an acoustic version even though they were originally recorded in a band setting. A prime example is “Lives in the Balance.” Not only does the song seem to have more emotion with Browne performing alone on acoustic guitar, it is, sadly, as politically relevant as it was when originally released in 1986. Likewise, the title track to 1996’s Looking East seems to reveal more in this setting that in the version recorded with a band.
By labeling the disc “Vol. 1,” Browne seeks to assuage the more avid fans who wish for more or a multi-disc set from these shows. As the title indicates, Browne plans to release another volume of recordings from the solo acoustic tours next year.
At various points during the tours, Browne had cameramen recording the shows. Unfortunately, no DVD comes with this release nor is it in the Dual Disc format. Similarly, more inquisitive fans may be disappointed that nothing in disc package indicates when or where each song was recorded.
Yet it is only by being somewhat greedy or a bit too curious that you can really find flaws in this exquisite release. The exchanges with the audience not only give some background to various songs and events in his life, they tend to display Browne’s sense of humor and graciousness. More important, the music itself solidly reinforces Browne’s status as a tremendous performer and songwriter.