As much as my tastes may veer toward post rock, shoegaze, Krautrock, metal, and other less-mainstream waters, I do have a huge soft spot for old Americana (“Born to Run” gives me life every time I hear it). But for all my affinity for the Boss, Bob Seger, Tom Petty, and Dire Straits, I’ve never spent much time digging into Jackson Browne’s catalogue, which I have been told is a real shame.
For Everyman, his second record, is, by several accounts, his best work, and a few songs in, it’s easy to see why. This record is spellbinding. It opens with his arrangement of “Take It Easy,” cowritten with the Eagles’ Glen Frey and released the same year. Browne’s version is the more nuanced of the two versions, allowing the somberness of the lyrics room to breathe (in what universe is being torn between seven women something to brag about? Jackson sings it with the tension it deserves).
The disc as a whole showcases his tendency to restrain the band into subtler, more emotive arrangements when lesser band leaders would crank up the amps and let the drums take off. This restraint leaves room for his heartfelt wit, allowing his words room to breathe. Accordingly, the weakest track on the album is bluesy, raucous “Redneck Friend,” which has none of the emotional heft of anything else here. But thankfully, that’s only one song, and it’s fun enough that it doesn’t taint the rest of the album, which is heartbreaking in the way that the best Americana (Springsteen’s Nebraska, Seger’s “Against the Wind”) is heartbreaking.