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MusicRadar Jackson Browne talks guitars, production and new album Standing In The Breach
A sort of jammy, friendly kind of arrangement is at the heart of it.
You notice something very striking about Jackson Browne when listening to his new album, Standing In The Breach. Beyond its myriad, rich and sublime attributes – the dreamy bed of Byrds-like guitars on The Birds Of St. Marks, the spellbinding transposition to song of an unpublished Woody Guthrie letter, along with Browne's engrossing examinations of human bonds and social-political concerns – there's the singer's sweet and soulful voice: It's as pure and present as it's ever been, an instrument that is, it would seem, ageless.
Browne laughs in almost an "aw, shucks" manner when I compliment him on his singing and how, unlike so many other veteran performers his age (he turns 66 on October 6), it doesn't sound as if he's making any noticeable allowances for changes in his vocal range. "The truth is, I never really liked my singing very much, especially in the beginning," he says. "Then, at a certain point, I got comfortable with the way I sang because it seemed to work, especially live. I’d realize how not to do stuff that doesn’t work. I’m still settling for a kind of limited palate."
The singer does admit to "studying" his voice in recent years, even going to see what he calls a "vocal repairman." "I just said, 'Fuck it, I'm going to figure out how to make some of the sounds I want," he says. And on the new record, he even made some changes to how he tracked songs, focusing on one number at a time and sticking with it until he was happy with his vocal performance. "It worked out well, singing one song until I was finished rather than trying to sing them all at once," he says. "It also allowed me to get a different sound on certain vocal so that they wouldn't be engulfed by the tracks.’ Each vocal would hold its own."
Browne recorded Standing In The Breach at his own Santa Monica-based facility, Groove Masters, with a group of players he's worked with for years – among them, guitarists Greg Leisz, Val McCallum and Mark Goldenberg; drummers Jim Keltner and Mauricio Lewak; bassists Bob Glaub and Kevin McKormick – as well as some notable guests like keyboardist Benmont Tench, drummer Pete Thomas, bassist Tal Wilkenfeld, singer-songwriter Jonathan Wilson and Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith.
Browne sat down with MusicRadar recently to talk about recording the new album, the guitars he used, his own style of fingerpicking, politics in music, producing other artists and his recollections of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. (Jackson Browne's Standing In The Breach, due out October 7, can be pre-ordered at iTunes, Amazon and at this link.)