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)


Megan McCormick: Honest Words

RIYL: Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Susan Tedeschi

Megan McCormick’s debut album Honest Words is a blend of guitar-driven, bluesy rock and a dreamy Lilith Fair vibe.  Her voice falls in a pleasant, Sheryl Crow range, but with less cigarette smoke grit. Meanwhile, her guitar playing has the passion and technical prowess that should call the attention of people who dig the likes of Susan Tedeschi and Jimmie Vaughan.

The album kicks off with “Shiver,” a funky groove set against a blues riff that finds the singer suffering from the fever of a new love – simultaneously exciting and scary. This song is quickly followed by “Things Change,” a poppy song that begins with a traditional Texas blues arrangement before quickly becoming a peppy pop song. It has a chorus that would make Bonnie Raitt proud.  “Do Right” is nice enough, but a tad too generic with lyrics like “sold my soul to rock ‘n roll” and what not. “Wreck” is poignant, full of regret and heartbreak; “Oh My Love” is a shuffling, acoustic country tinged ballad and “Driveway” is slow and mournful; a tale told from the perspective of a woman dying at the wheel of her crashed car.

There are plenty of wonderful sounds on Honest Words: beautifully sung vocals, exemplary guitar playing and lyrics that are, for the most part, cliché-free. Unfortunately the album is a little too sleepy. For an artist who seems so grounded in the blues, a few more up-tempo rockers would have been welcome. After a string of slow songs, “Addiction,” a crunchy rock song jumps in as a much-needed wake up call. But then things slow right back down again. Bummer.

Nevertheless, McCormick is a nice discovery when so many female artists are either extremely pop or acoustic singer songwriters. For her next effort, here’s hoping she cuts back on the ballads and kicks it up a notch or two. (Ryko 2010)

Megan McCormick’s MySpace page
Click to buy Honest Words from Amazon