Jackson Browne brings his classic sound to Tiny Desk

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Jackson Browne, the legendary artist that came into popularity in the 70s and penned such classic tracks as “These Days” and “Take It Easy,” appeared on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert a few years ago. Although the concert series normally features newer and trendier artists on its program, NPR has made an effort to incorporate artists whose reputations are already cemented in the pantheon of pop music. Though Browne is one of these artists, he offers us songs old and new with just as much emotional weight and power as his classics.

Accompanied by three other musicians, the band presents a roots rock sound that provides the perfect vehicle for Browne’s lyrics to ride upon. They open up with the song “Call it a Loan” that was originally featured on his 1980 album “Hold Out:”

“In the morning when I closed my eyes
You were sleeping in paradise
And while the room was growing light
I was holding still with all my might

Oh – what if it’s true
What my heart says
Oh – what’ll I do
What if this feeling becomes hard to part with”

No one writes about heartache with as much wide-eyed pain and acceptance as Browne, and “Call it a Loan” is no exception. The Tiny Desk version steeps the song in Browne’s country/folk roots and improves upon it, his aging voice ringing out with the emotional tones of each word.

Then next song, “The Barricades of Heaven,” showcases how Browne’s lyrics play with memory and imagery, philosophy and meaning in just a few lines:

“Jimmy found his own sweet sound and won that free guitar
We’d all get in the van and play
Life became the paradox, the bear, the rouge et noir
And the stretch of road running to L.A.”

Just try not to feel something during the song’s bridge:

“Childhood comes for me at night
Voices of my friends
Your face bathing me in light
Hope that never ends”

One of the finest parts of Browne’s Tiny Desk Concert is the harmony he finds with his backup vocalist and organ player Jeff Young. Their singing together is honest and straightforward, filled with the yearning of Browne’s songs. Do yourself a favor and watch a legend prove why he’s one of the best songwriters to come out of 70s Los Angeles. He closes out the concert with the cautionary, beautiful song “The Long Way Around:

“It’s a little hard keeping track of what’s gone wrong
The covenant unravels, and the news just rolls along
I could feel my memory letting go some two or three disasters ago
It’s hard to say which did more ill
Citizens United or the Gulf oil spill

“And I’m a long way gone
Down this wild road I’m on
It’s going to take where I’m bound
But it’s the long way around”

 

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