To me Jackson Browne is that old worn flannel shirt that you love to wear. You’ve had it for almost 40 years but it still fits great, it’s well worn and reminds you of your past days with a smile of remembrance. It’s your go-to shirt for rainy days, perfect with a hot cup of coffee and a dog curled by your feet.
I think Jackson Browne’s first five albums (Jackson Browne, For Everyman, Late For The Sky, The Pretender and Running On Empty) are at the pinnacle of the singer/songwriter genre. Each one is heartfelt, introspective and beautifully rendered. They make up the majority of the material on that flannel shirt. The work after those seminal albums is very good, singular moments are as good as his strongest moments, but as albums they don’t measure up.
Standing In The Breach not only measures up but adds to the shirt’s wove.
Starting with a tune he wrote as a teenager, The Birds of St. Marks could be an early Byrds’ album cut, full of jangling guitars and hook laden it’s like a letter from an old friend. And after all these years his voice remains as beautiful and expressive as ever. Later he returns to the scene of one of his early successes in the song, Leaving Winslow. It’s beautiful bouncy jaunt that’s a perfect sequel to Take It Easy.
Like much of his “Post Empty” work many of the songs are political, but here they are more spoken to you than preached, approached in the same manner as his songs of heart and heart break. The Long Way Around and If I Could Be Anywhere are the best examples of this softer but just as moving approach.
The album closes with Here, a beautiful love song that would fit seamlessly on any of his first albums.
Standing In The Breach is Jackson Browne at his best, ten songs of love, honor and hope, all conjured by the affairs of the heat and of State.