It’s been almost five decades since the release of an auspicious LP that debuted an artist who personified intimacy. Jackson Browne’s career as a songwriter is the journeyman tale of an impassioned but subdued individual. Known for writing hits “Running on Empty”, “The Pretender” and “Take it Easy”, Browne creates another heartened repose. Downhill From Everywhere brings back what’s made the songwriter a speaker for the heartbroken and romantics. Browne sounds as if he’s barely aged for his 15th album with 10-tracks that could’ve been released decades earlier. Much like his personal life, the singer is subdued but crafts poetic lyrics that bring out an hour of sincere emotions.
The singer-songwriter has never shied away from speaking his heart. With discussions on immigration, pollution, purpose and the afterlife, “My Cleveland Heart” is all that and more. Browne breaks down his traditional roots style sound with thoughts of more autonomous. The idea of replacing heart with a mechanical one sounds as nightmarish as the music video suggests. But the thought comes in the hope of making less mistakes in life as Browne harnesses Tom Petty vibes. Concerns of the heart are just a small part of the album as human understanding takes bigger shape from looking outward.
As a member of the Executive Advisory Board of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Browne shows an obvious love for the world. Speaking out on the issue of plastic use and the crisis of pollution, the album’s self-titled track is a humanitarian speech turned into a musical jam. While listing everything that’s gone “downhill”, Browne voices the matters that should be focused on. Being released as a single on Earth Day was appropriate enough to convey public attention. It remains fresh and sleek with plenty of choir vocalists that enforce the notion of treating the environment. While it can be overdrawn at times, Browne and his accompaniment’s musicality is smooth with an easygoing groove backed by a sensitive subject.
The singles feature tight collaborations of artists that Browne has co-written with over the years. There’s plenty of the album’s other tracks that showcase the same unison of oppos. But the most standout feature comes in the tune “A Human Touch”. A duet that’s kicked off with the voice of New York-based songwriter Leslie Mendelson that rings out so much wrenching emotion. Browne’s inclusion blends harmoniously into Mendelson’s tone that brings a standup ballad into anthem for human care. The single’s feature in the AIDs documentary, 5B, tributes the love and care shown by the nurses and doctors who revolutionized patient care in the 80s. In the wake of other pandemics, the two singers pay respect for the continued practice and support of today’s healthcare workers.
As Browne looks to other issues on immigration and building a family, the singer optimizes his love of Spanish culture. The electric appeal of “A Song for Barcelona” and acoustic contrast of “The Dreamer” brings all the influences the singer attributed from Latin music. As he’s stated the love of the former track’s city, “restored my fire and gave me back my appetite.” Both display standouts from the album that still fit the mold of the overall human message. While musically they make a wave of being more upbeat in comparison to other tracks, they do enough to re-energize the album before closing it.
Breaking into his early 70s hasn’t slowed the process of Browne’s musical spirit. Downhill From Everywhere is the singer-songwriters call to action for environmental and social concerns. It’s leaning of being both satirical and serious offers a project that’s as diverse as the music. The abound session of flawless musicians and exceptional vocalists are sure to get longtime fans pumping with anticipation. But its socio-economic leanings are what makes a new generation of listeners find a place among his fanbase. As the album drops July 23rd, the world can lend an ear to Browne’s sincerity and earnest love for life.
Written by Trenton Luber