Back in September, Jackson Browne captured the spirit of Americana — both literally and figuratively. During the awards ceremony at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, Browne was bestowed with the Association’s Spirit of America Award and took the stage for a delicately rocking version of “The Long Way Around,” the video of which is premiering exclusively on Rolling Stone Country.
The clip, along with select performances including Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and Sturgill Simpson’s “Life of Sin,” will air as part of a special upcoming episode of Austin City Limits. ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2014 is dedicated to the annual awards show that honors the best in the broadly-encompassing genre, from Simpson to Jason Isbell to the legendary Taj Mahal.
From his 14th studio album, Standing in the Breach, “The Long Way Around” is a smooth, contemplative shuffle about the ills of the modern world: gun violence, inequality and tragedy after tragedy, each forgotten the moment another news story rolls around. Browne’s always had an adept hand at tackling politics with poetry, and his lyrics here are soft and direct. “It’s never been that hard to buy a gun/Now they’ll sell a Glock 19 to just about anyone,” he sings. “The seeds of tragedy are there/and what we feel we have the right to bear.”
At the awards, Browne spoke upon accepting his honor about the craft of songwriting and awaking the ability to see your work from an almost out-of-body place. “Writing a song is a little bit like trying to say some things into the space in front of you and see if it sounds right,” he said at the podium.
Browne is currently on a world tour through 2015, supporting his new release, and has continued to speak out politically as well as through song. “The biggest enemy of human rights is business,” he recently told The Nation. “It’s corruption and people treating other people as if they’re expendable. And the word that gets thrown around all the time in our — ‘American interests.’ You can say anything as long as I’m ‘defending American interests.’ What the hell are they? What the hell are our interests if not to have a safe environment and prosperity for everybody? And that’s why I get specific in some of these songs.”
This is the fourth year that Austin City Limits will broadcast the Americana Festival’s annual Honors & Awards Show special, airing November 22nd on PBS.