Friday, June 14, 2019

Album Review: Bruce Springsteen - Western Stars

In between a successful solo Broadway run and a new tour with his full band, Bruce Springsteen somehow found the time to record a new record. While this is not the bombastic, heroic soul/rock revue  he peddles with the E Street Band, this is not exactly an austere, stripped down affair like The Ghost of Tom Joad either.

The album's subject is America's landscapes and the people in it, but instead of a rootsy, earthy production Bruce has favoured a more ornate approach: this is country folk by the way of Lee Hazlewood. There is always that distinct Americana feel underneath it all, but all in all this could be considered Bruce's chamber country record.

But if the arrangements are lush, they're not schmaltzy or overblown. Cellos, horns, banjos, steel guitars, echoey pianos serve as the jewel case for his sharp, unmistakable songwriting and his emotive voice. And thanks to the wonderfully detailed production, you can hear every nuance in his voice: the man has never sung better. If he's kept his trademark country groan and mumble, he has traded his soul rock shout for a more supple croon that fits this material's direction.

While it may not have the grit and the social commentary of some of his other work (pick up Duff McKagan's great new album if that's what you are looking for), this new LP finds Springsteen, on the eve of his seventieth birthday, in a more contemplative mood; not quite at peace perhaps but embracing some sense of serenity as he enters old age. Until, of course, he takes another left turn with his next project.

Genre: Americana
Release Date: June 14th, 2019
Label: Columbia
Rating: 7/10

Stream the album in the embedded player below. Click HERE to subscribe to Apple Music. 

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