Tribute album honours Jackson Browne

Doug
Doug Gallant
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This two-CD set features 23 songs from his voluminous catalogue

With the possible exception of James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and perhaps Neil Young, I can think of few artists whose work contributed more to the emergence of the singer-songwriter as a force to be reckoned with than Jackson Browne.

His beautifully crafted songs, many of them deeply personal, some of them strongly political, have been endearing him to music fans now for more than 40 years.

He has influenced and inspired countless other artists, from The Indigo Girls, Marc Cohn and Rickie Lee Jones to Tracy Chapman and Shawn Colvin.

Given the impact Browne has had, you would expect that somewhere along the line he would have been the subject of a tribute album.

Not so.

Not until now.

Music Road Records, a Texas-based indie record label co-founded by Austin roots rocker Jimmy LaFave and Texas billionaire Kelcy Warren, the latter a huge Jackson Browne fan, has just released Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne.

Dropped just this week, this two-CD set features 23 songs from Browne’s voluminous catalogue.

As is the case with most tribute albums, Browne himself does not make an appearance on the record, which is unfortunate because there are several people here it would have been interesting to hear him perform with.

Label co-founder LaFave, who does a nice job of For Everyman would be one of those artists. Another would be Paul Thorn who offers up a respectable take on Doctor My Eyes.

Neither of those names may ring a bell with you but there is a long list of people here who will.

And there are some really interesting match-ups.

I was pretty much sold after hearing the track that kicks off the record, a version of These Days featuring Don Henley and Portland indie folk band Blind Pilot.

Then there’s Bonnie Raitt and Browne’s frequent sideman David Lindley serving up a wonderful reggae version of Everywhere I Go.

Lucinda Williams does good work on the Pretender.

Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa paired up for a good go at Linda Paloma.

Keb’Mo’ delivers a soulful take on Rock Me On the Water and Eliza Gilkyson comes across very well on Before The Deluge.

Shawn Colvin makes Call It A Loan sound like it was written for her.

Karla Bonoff, whom we don’t hear nearly enough from, does a beautiful version of Something Fine.

 Lyle Lovett aces Our Lady of the Well.

J.D. Souther fares almost as well on My Opening Farewell.

One of my favourite pairings and one of the most unusual brought together Marc Cohn and violinist/guitarist/songwriter Joan Wasser, better known as Joan As Police Woman, for a run at Too Many Angels.

There are several other artists here whose names carry some weight — Ben Harper, the Indigo Girls, Joan Osborne, Sara and Sean Watkins — but some of the nicest work comes from people who don’t have quite as much profile, like singer-songwriter Griffin House who does a fine version of Barricades of Heaven.

Like any tribute album Looking Into You will have some people scratching their heads because not all the song choices were big hits for Browne.

Tracks like Here Come Those Tears Again, Lawyers In Love, Take It Easy, Somebody’s Baby, The Load-Out and Tender Is The Night, all hits for Browne, aren’t here for example.

But take the record for what it is, a tribute to Browne the songwriter, and it stands up well.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

 

Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments from readers at dgallant@theguardian.pe.ca or 629-6000, ext. 6057.

Organizations: Indigo Girls, The Guardian, Griffin House

Geographic location: Texas, Portland

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