Jackson Browne, Jenny Lewis, and others on new Haiti benefit LP ‘Let the Rhythm Lead' unpack the origins of their cross-cultural summit.
Photo Credit: David Belle

Over the decades, Browne has found himself in some unusual situations linked to his music: singing in a jail cell after being arrested while protesting the opening of a nuclear power plant, or recording an album (Running on Empty) on tour buses and in hotel rooms. To that list, Browne can now add witnessing a Vodou ceremony in Haiti.

“People would go into this kind of trance,” the singer-songwriter recalls of one evening in that country, during the making of his latest project. “Then they began to hurl themselves backwards into the crowd, and the crowd helped them up and then pushed them back into the center, and they kept dancing. It’s this rhythm- and music-induced state, a high.”

That memorable night stemmed from one of the most ambitious projects of Browne’s career. During two separate trips to Haiti in 2016, he gathered together a musically and ethnically diverse group of collaborators: American musicians (Jenny Lewis, singer and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Wilson, Head and the Heart singer-songwriter Jonathan Russell), members of the Haitian roots band Lakou Mizik, Haitian singer-songwriter Paul Beaubrunand international talents like Mali-based singer and musician Habib Koité and Spanish flamenco guitarist Raúl Rodríguez. In various combinations, the artists wrote and recorded songs that blended all their musical backgrounds, swapping lead vocals and sometimes instruments, and singing in English, Creole, Khassonké (the language of western Mali), Manding (of West Africa), and Spanish. Continue reading

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