Jackson Browne is a prolific and highly respected singer/songwriter. For many of us, his songs were deeply meaningful, especially during the ’70s and early ’80s. This 2-CD tribute highlights his sensitive lyrics and the timeless quality of his material. It is very pleasant listening and features many of Browne’s contemporaries who obviously are sincere in wanting to honor their fellow troubadour.
A lot of the singers here have very similar vocal ranges to Browne: Don Henley, Lyle Lovett, Bob Schneider, Paul Thorn, and J.D. Souther in particular. In the case of the female singers, the songs are beautifully done but the arrangements do not cover any new ground, except for Lucinda Williams’ cover of “The Pretender,” which she modified to suit her usual world-weary vibe. (That is not a derogatory remark. No one does world-weary better than Lucinda Williams.)
The female singers do sound more distinctive vocally simply by virtue of being female. Shawn Colvin’s “Call It a Loan,” Karla Bonoff’s “Something Fine,” and Joan Osborne’s “Late for the Sky” are all sensitively rendered, and yet even with the women, these three have similar folk-oriented styles. Bonnie Raitt and David Lindley set the standard for the whole CD with their version of “Everywhere I Go,” as their voices mesh perfectly and Raitt’s bluesy voice adds extra texture to the song. The Indigo Girls also shine on their version of “Fountain of Sorrow,” while Bruce Springsteen does a perfect and heartfelt duet with his wife Patti Scialfa on “Linda Paloma,” which could have been written for Springsteen.
As for the numbers by solo male singers, there are no bad performances here. I particularly love Keb’ Mo’s version of “Rock Me on the Water” and Lyle Lovett’s “Rosie,” although it sounds almost identical to Browne’s version. As a caveat, I have to say that I love that song so much I named my daughter Rose and call her Rosie at least in part because of it.
Many of these singers are, in this reviewer’s opinion, among the best I’ve ever heard. You are never likely to dislike a CD with this sort of star power. And the chance to hear 23 fantastic songs in the same set makes it well worth your while to grab this tribute. Just don’t expect to hear much that is radically different from the Jackson Browne sound you have always heard and loved. Once you know that is what to expect, this is relaxing and enjoyable music to add to your collection.