These days, Jackson Browne says the songwriting process is slower for him. It’s been seven years since the about-to-turn-73 (October 9th) singer/songwriter released a new album, and now we have Downhill From Everywhere.
The album is a collection of ten Jackson Browne originals (with some co-writing). Right away, Jackson lets us know he’s “Still Looking For Something”, which is a really good song, and a strong start for the the album. It would have been a good title for it. He says…“If all I find is freedom, it’s alright.”
The featured single and video is “My Cleveland Heart”. It’s a lap steel guitar rocker about avoiding heartbreak by getting an artificial heart at the famous Cleveland Clinic. The video adds some humor to the idea.
The third track on the album, “Minutes To Downtown”, is another song about heartbreak, and it has that classic Jackson Browne sound. “I See that smile, and even while it breaks my heart, I laugh. That’s because this heart was already torn in half.”
The quality continues with the duet “A Human Touch”. The vocal is started by co-writer Leslie Mendelson. Jackson Browne adds harmony on the chorus, and then takes the lead on the next verse. The lap steel guitar gives it a country feel, and the lyrics hit home after the distancing of the pandemic… “Sometimes all anybody needs is a human touch.” It reminded me of another duet, “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough”, by Patty Smyth and Don Henley.
The title track, “Downhill From Everywhere”, is based on the thought that everything we do eventually goes downhill into the ocean, polluting it. The song is a rocker that sounds like the guitarist had the riff from The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” stuck in his head. It’s not one of the better songs on the album…just too many listings of “Downhill from…” on it.
The second song that has a Stone’s guitar feel is “Until Justice Is Real”. It took a few listens for me to warm up to it, but it sounds like it would have fit on Jackson’s “Lives In The balance” album.
One of the best songs is the welcome new ballad “A Little Soon To Say”. It features beautiful guitar and organ accompaniment, with effective vocal harmonies, especially on the title line about whether things will be alright….“It’s just a little soon to say.”
The album ends upbeat with “A Song For Barcelona”. The rhythm and instrumental arrangement match the title perfectly. The band is energetic and in a groove. Jackson Browne sings that Barcelona “gave me refuge in my escape from Rock & Roll.”
Something Jackson Browne could work on is making his album covers more appealing. Here are his last two covers next to each other.
It looks like a place you’d want to avoid. It would be a shame if anyone missed the music because they were turned away by the cover. One of the new publicity photos would have made a much more inviting cover, and would have still been in line with his often serious lyrics.
Jackson Browne fans will definitely be adding some of the songs from Downhill From Everywhere to their permanent playlists. This album has the most Jackson Browne songs I’ve added from any of his albums in the last 30 years. Jackson will be performing tracks from the new album, as he’s touring this fall with James Taylor, and on his own. These days, we’re lucky Jackson Browne is still providing fans with new music.
Extra: For a look at Jackson’s best albums, and some original concert photos, here’s the link. https://ontherecords.net/2017/06/jackson-browne-best-albums-2021-updates/
Update (August, 2021): Jackson Browne & James Taylor returned to the stage in Sarasota, Florida August 23rd. Here are photos from the Daily Gazette.