I’ve been a fan of “The Boss” (a nickname that stemmed from his early days when he collected the gig money; apparently he dislikes it) since he released Nebraska in 1982. Unfortunately my copy was on vinyl and is long gone but this project has provided me with the impetus to go out and replace quite a few Albums so I’ll have to add it to the list. One of the things I’ve been looking forward to is revisiting some seminal Albums from my youth. Stuff i obsessed over and played relentlessly. But that’s a little further down the track.
Like Nebraska, Bruce’s Devils and Dust is a stark Album. It’s the third of his purely folk albums. The one in between being The Ghost of Tom Joad which i have and love so you’ll have it too at some stage.
One of Springsteen’s great strengths is the economy of his language. You mate that with his low-key delivery and the end result is a richness that belies the seeming paucity of its origins. For the most part there is just Bruce, his Marine Brand Harmonica, his battered old Sunburst Gibson J-45 and this wonderful affinity for the ‘lost souls’ that inhabit his stories. More and more those stories have been immigrant stories; the empty promise that lures people across the border. Like Paul Kelly his reputation as a balladeer is firmly anchored in the great empathy he displays as he tells those stories.
I know they belong to different era’s so its a ridiculous comparison, like comparing prize fighters from across generations or who would win in a ‘Hulk vs Spiderman’ superbout but the difference between Dylan and Springsteen (which i guess is the natural comparison) is that it’s hard to get away from Bob when you’re listening to a Dylan song whereas with Bruce everything is in the service of the
Having said that not all Bruce Springsteen’s songs are morality tales. He can paint a beautiful landscape when it’s called for and Matamoros Banks is just magical.
The title track is just about as bleak and desperate as you can get. Reno is as achingly sad as All I’m Thinking About is infectiously happy. If you were going to force me to choose just one it would be the later, if only for the fact that the songs three chords are the only ones I have any mastery over, so I can strum along. Bruce’s falsetto is a bit beyond me though.
I’m thinking you’ll enjoy this one.