Jackson Browne, “Shaky Town” from Running on Empty (1977): One Track Mind

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The are a few albums which I consistently take when I travel. Joni Mitchell’s Hejira, Steely Dan’s Aja and Dire Straits’ Love Over Gold usually make my short list. Another sure pick is Jackson Browne’s Running On Empty. This 1977 classic, recorded live on stage and in hotel rooms and rehearsal halls has Browne’s most eclectic collection of songs about loneliness, love, sex and drugs.

“Shaky Town,” a Danny (Kootch) Kortchmar-penned song taped in Room 124 of the Edwardsville, Ill., Holiday Inn, is an enduring classic. Featuring Browne and Kortchmar on acoustic guitars, Craig Doerge on Wurlitzer piano, Leland Sklar on bass, and Russ Kunkel on drums, this is one of the rawest Browne recordings.

Kortchmar’s lyrics about life on the road with its repetitive nature, one night stands and cocaine-fueled dramas is graphic, poetic and stark. Danny Kortchmar provided the anguished harmony vocals, while utility player David Lindley provides a searing pedal steel guitar solo which lifts the song to even higher highs.

Kortchmar would soon go on to write or cowrite the best Don Henley solo songs, and is now playing with his old friend Carole King. He also has a solo version of “Shaky Town,” but it doesn’t quite match the intensity of Jackson Browne’s version.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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