Jackson Browne: Going Home


RIYL: The Eagles, Bonnie Raitt, David Lindley

In 1994, Jackson Browne released I’m Alive, a strong collection of songs that was a return to personal songwriting after years of political. In conjunction with that release, the Disney Channel, when they still offered programming that would appeal to adults, presented this documentary, “Jackson Browne: Going Home.” The 90-minute production captures the artist performing live with his great band from the ’90s, as well as footage of Browne, mostly at his home, sharing stories about his life, his career and the process he goes through making music. Interspersed with the concert and backstage footage are rare photos and filmed performances that span his career up to that point.

The live concert production is tight and immaculately produced. Like many of his Laurel Canyon 1970s singer-songwriter comrades, there is an attention to detail when Brown performs that makes you appreciate the professionalism of the artist. No note is out of place; what has been recorded on the record is duplicated perfectly in concert. However, Browne is also one of those artists who knows how to connect with his audience, making each concert unique. So, whether singing live in front of 20,000 or in a sterile TV studio for a small number of fans, it never feels like he’s going through the motions.

The abundance of music in the documentary seems far too much for only an hour and a half, but it all fits and everything sounds fantastic. The song selections must represent Browne’s set list in the early ’90s; mixed in with ’70s classics like “These Days,” “The Pretender” and “Before the Deluge,” are standouts from his late ’80s period like “In the Shape of a Heart,” “World In Motion” and “Sky Blue and Black.”  There are also some excellent deep cuts, like “Farther On” and “Birds of St. Marks.”

Many of Browne’s famous friends show up. David Lindley, Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Don Henley, Jennifer Warnes and the rest of the Eagles all make appearances, with Lindley, Crosby, Nash and Warnes performing live with Browne and his band.

It’s hard to believe that “Going Home” was shot in 1994. Aside from some graying hair and additional wrinkles here and there, Browne doesn’t appear to have aged at all in all of these years.  Moreover, his voice continues to sound as youthful as ever. A nifty video montage of “Doctor My Eyes” edits together performances that range from early in his career to the ’94 show.  So often with these type of DVD releases, only hardcore fans will buy them. However, this is one release that stands on its own as a quality film whether you’ve been following Jackson Browne for years or just heard of him yesterday. (Eagle Records 2010)

  

Susan Cowsill: Lighthouse


RIYL: Eva Cassidy, Jackson Browne, Shawn Colvin, The Cowsills

Susan Cowsill’s second solo effort, Lighthouse, is a deceptive album. On the surface, it’s a collection of heartfelt, pretty songs sung by a woman whose voice is rich with texture and soul. Especially when listening through headphones, you get a real sense of how wonderful her voice must be when heard live in a small setting. When you sit down to listen to Lighthouse, the first two or three songs lure you in for what should be a pleasant experience. However, once you get midway through the CD’s twelve tracks, Cowsill’s limitations as a lyricist begin to become apparent.

The singer/songwriter deals with some heavy themes on this record. A majority of the songs were written after the death of her two brothers, during a period that followed the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated Cowsill’s home in New Orleans. Cowsill tries to fill each song with a sense of spirituality and optimism that is refreshing, yet her delivery and her lyrics are so earnest that the whole album starts to wear thin. Think of it as neo folk alt pop emo; taken in small doses it’s nice to the ears, but an entire album’s worth may lead you to whip the CD down the driveway.

Still, there are some great songs on Lighthouse. “Avenue of the Indians” features a fine guest appearance by Jackson Browne – Cowsill’s voice is lovely when singing harmony; a beautiful cover of Jimmy Webb’s “Galveston” is near perfect; the title track is an aching, hopeful prayer made delicate by Jack Craft’s piano and cello playing; and “ONOLA” is a hell of a show of strength and loyalty to her adopted city of New Orleans. In fact, when backed by a full on, rocking backing band, as on “ONOLA,” Cowsill’s urgency comes across much better. If only she’d chosen to bear her soul with more hard driving songs instead of ballads and Lighthouse would have been much more memorable. (2010, Threadhead Records)

Susan Cowsill’s MySpace Page
Purchase Lighthouse through Amazon

  

The Silver Seas: Chateau Revenge


RIYL: Jackson Browne, Josh Rouse, The Gabe Dixon Band

What do you do when a band you love does the unthinkable? In the case of Nashville’s The Silver Seas, the unthinkable is one-upping their five-star worthy debut, High Society, and causing us to scratch our heads and wonder: do we give them six stars? Five and a half? We’ll have to settle on five and have you use your imagination beyond that. The point is, Daniel Tashian and company has returned with Chateau Revenge, and it’s once again a collection of songs that makes everything else you might be listening to at the moment seem like background noise. Tashian has a way with a hook, but he goes beyond crafting great songs with the help of the other Silver Seas – Jason Lehning, Lex Price and Dave Gehrke – to arrange them in a way that allows said songs to breathe. The result is a noticeable ‘70s bent complete with Tashian’s Jackson Browne-ish tenor and big harmony-drenched choruses. Two of the tracks in particular, “What’s the Drawback” and “The Best Things in Life,” are instant hits if they are released in 1976. In fact, on the former, Tashian sings about a woman who “likes the E.L.O.,” and the lyric is followed by strings reminiscent of the ‘70s icons. But that’s not to say The Silver Seas are hopelessly stuck in a time warp. “Jane” is a breezy, melodic, Josh Rouse-like toe-tapper, while “From My Windowsill” and “What If It Isn’t Out There” have a jazzy flavor. “Somebody Said Your Name” is a Jackson Browne-esque romp, and on “Those Streets,” the way the guitars and bass line marry is pure magic. Come to think of it, just about everything The Silver Seas do is magical, and the latest proof is that they have surpassed the brilliance of High Society with Chateau Revenge. (Self-release)

The Silver Seas MySpace Page

  

Pat McGee: These Days (The Virginia Sessions)

Pat McGee has dropped the “Band” from his name and is going it alone, so to speak, in his solo debut and first effort for Rock Ridge Music, These Days (The Virginia Sessions). There is something breezy and easy to enjoy about McGee’s songs – they are delivered in a way reminiscent of ‘70s pop (think Jackson Browne) or akin to in more modern terms, Train or the Fray. McGee has a good, if not spectacular, voice; but as it’s always been, his songs are the driving force of his career, and he’s brought us another batch of good ones here. One of the only negative things you can say about Pat McGee is that much of the material, in melody, tone and arrangement, sounds very similar. But occasionally he steps things up, as he does on These Days with the stunning “Come Back Home,” a track originally written when McGee’s longtime drummer, John C. Williams, left the band, with the sentiment being how a military couple deals with separation during times of war. Sadly and somewhat symbolically, Williams’ younger brother lost his life in Iraq after McGee wrote the song last year. The Tonic-esque “The Hand That Holds You” is also a standout track. (Rock Ridge Music)

Pat McGee MySpace Page

  

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