Saturday, April 23, 2005

Devils and Dust



In the name of full disclosure I have to admit that I’ve been in the bag for Bruce Springsteen since 1978. Since Darkness on the Edge of Town got under my skin and stayed there (all of the incessant “future of rock and roll” hype for Born to Run three years earlier irked the skeptical soul in me and I, foolishly, passed on that one at first.) And so the chances that I was not going to like this disc were slim at best (which is not to say that Bruce hasn’t misfired now and again…The Ghost of Tom Joad was earnest but kinda boring, 18 Tracks was a well-intentioned rip-off, Live in New York City was okay but not really necessary, and Human Touch was a bit too slick for its own good.)

Early word about Devils and Dust led one to believe it was a stripped down, starkly acoustic affair like the wondrous Nebraska…but that isn’t really the case at all. Granted, the rousing joyful thunder of the E Street Band that informed The Rising gives way to a sound centered around Springsteen’s acoustic guitar but the sound here is fuller than on Nebraska or Tom Joad...it's filled with keyboards (mostly by Bruce himself), drums, violins, and horns on various cuts. This record rocks unabashedly on a number of cuts...but in a gentler way that would have been bludgeoned by the full-bodied muscle of the E Street Band (only three members of which make appearances here: Patti Scialfa on background vocals, Soozie Tyrell on violins and background vocals, and, on one cut, Dan Federici on keyboards.)

Devils and Dust is filled with atmospheric, insightful stories…about lost sons (one dealing with his mother's death in “Silver Palomino”, another living a hardscrabble life as a boxer in “The Hitter”, yet another finding his way from the shelter of his mother's smile to life on his own in "Black Cowboys") and prostitutes (“Reno”, a somewhat graphic song that earned this disc Bruce’s first parental warning label), soldiers (the Iraqi War inspired title song) and saviors (“Jesus Was an Only Son”) and lovers (the sweetly randy “Maria’s Bed” and “All I’m Thinkin’ About”, a gently driving love song sung in an effective falsetto) and other souls with poignant tales to tell…mostly told in a burnished, heartfelt twang that suits these fine songs to a tee.

It’s a lovely record indeed (and I’m not just saying that because I’ve been in the bag for Bruce since ’77…really I’m not ... :-)

(This disc is one of the “dual discs” that are starting to be pushed. It has the CD on one side and a DVD…in this case featuring solo acoustic performances of 5 songs from the album…on the other. I’m not a big fan of music DVDs…MTV notwithstanding, music was meant to be heard rather than seen…but I guess it’s cool for those who dig the music DVD thing.)

7 comments:

Helen said...

I love Bruce - I admit it. I am a Jersey girl who has seen him live dozens of times. And while he has disappointed me over the years, I've seen that any artist that you follow for the long stretch will do this. Those who endure are bound to branch out and try new things. If they didn't, they wouldn't grow. I was deeply saddened with the departure of the band (missed Clarence something' awful'!) and it took me YEARS to "accept" Patti as part of the band. All the changes and swings have deepened my appreciation for all the members. Now, thirty something years after falling in love with them, I will still be one of the first on line for a ticket. Thanks for the post and review. I'm sure I won't be disappointed in the new release.
Peace!

Minda31180 said...

To truly appreciate the Boss I think you really have to see him live, it's a spiritual experience.

TrueJerseyGirl said...

Can't wait for the new Bruce release...haven't been too fond of his stuff lately - a bit too "down" for me. But you know a Jersey Girl will always give him another shot!

Tinnocker said...

Mike,
I surfed in on blog explosion and read your boss review on the Boss' new album. Based on your review I'm going to have to get a copy. Your blog is a very good read, Ive bookmarked it and will surf back often.
Thanks,
Ted

zydeco fish said...

That's an intersting post. I am a lapsed Bruce fan, having abandoned him with Born in the USA. I loved the previous stuff. I have never come back, but I might have a listen to the new one. (I came here via Blogexplosion).

Lifeoriley said...

Whar a great review! I just received the "Devils and Dust" cd from my sister that works for sony/bmg.... not to mention a wonderful tshirt. I was very pleased with the cd. Its been a few years since l have listened to Bruce and lm greatful for the addition to my cd collection.

Reading your review, l realized l need to add Bruce to my little trivia game l have going. Thanks for playing.

Layla said...

Bruce feels like a friend to me. Every year since I was about 20 I have celebrated my birthday with him...he's never there mind you, but we have the same birthday! He's ten years older than me and if I had half of the energy he seems to have, I'd be thrilled.

I liked your review of Devils and Dust. I tried in vain to get a ticket to the local show he did here last week but was uable to unless I wanted to spend about $500 PER TICKET. I've seen him 15 times - this was the first time I have not seen him in LA since the 80's. It was sad.

Anyhow, when he did "The Rising" tour I wrote a review of it and I think I will post it on my classic rock blog under the Springsteen section.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I will also admit this: I BLUSHED when I heard "Reno" and had to get out the lyrics to make sure I heard correctly.