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Bruce Springsteen: Western Stars – Album Review

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published July 10th 2019
The Boss is back
Well, it took 5 weeks, but Bruce Springsteen's new album (released in June 2019) finally reached me. This is a solo album, and it upholds the consistently great work I have come to expect from the Boss. Yes, this is the second Springsteen album I've reviewed, and yes, I am a fan, and, yes, there are a few classic albums by him to come in that series of columns, but this is the newest one and so I thought I should share it with you.

What an album. Called Western Stars, it is another journey through the America that most writers ignore – the America of real people holding down real jobs with loves and lives, hopes and disappointments.

And, much like Bryan Adams' latest, the music on this album is generally upbeat and bright, even if some of the lyrics are a little depressing. The new music this year has been impressive in that way. I haven't been keeping an eye on the pop charts, though, so I'm not sure if it's reflected in that sort of chart music, but what I listen to – great!.

All the songs were written by Springsteen… and here we go.

The album opens with 'Hitch Hikin'', and it's about what it says on the tin. The people a hitchhiker meets on the road are detailed. Nice and gentle, with a gloriously building orchestra behind Springsteen, it's a fine way to start the album.

'The Wayfarer' is next, with a gentle easily listening 1970s feel to it. It's another tale of a man who does not stay in one place too long, and yet he does not mind his way of life. This has a sound reminiscent of a Burt Bacharach track, and I mean that in a good way.

'Tucson Train' is the love song of a blue-collar worker, waiting for his girl to come to join him where he works after they had a falling out. Simple, straight forward and yet filled with emotion. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album.

Things slow down for 'Western Stars'. The lyrics give it the feel of a Californian 'Glory Days', a guy living a little on past memories, but this man does not regret it at all. It feels like a celebration. I like that.

'Sleepy Joe's Café' is, again, what it says on the tin. It's a song about the eponymous café. After 'Western Stars', this feels incredibly up-tempo, but it's not really. It's a cool song, with some nice story-telling in it. I don't think there is an artist recording today who tells stories in his songs as well as Springsteen.

We slow down a little for 'Drive Fast (The Stuntman)'. It's reminiscent of the song 'The Wrestler' for the film of the same name. While I do prefer 'The Wrestler' with its downbeat tone and sense of desperation and depression, this one is still a good track. Another story in song; I reckon a decent TV series could be made with each episode based on a new Springsteen song. (Producers: I'll put my hand up to write it!)

Slowing right down now for 'Chasin' Wild Horses', a slightly more downbeat song than what it follows. Not sure about this track. It didn't really resonate with me. Not saying it was bad, but I just didn't get into it.

'Sundown' has an awesome beginning, and then the lyrics come and it's actually a depressing song. It struck a chord with me, and it is another of my favourites on the album.

'Somewhere North Of Nashville' is a short song, clocking in at less than 2 minutes, but it is another story, a songwriter who gave it all away for the chance at success… but that success didn't come. Another sad piece. There is regret in this short tale…

'Stones' is another sad song, and another that didn't really resonate with me.

'There Goes My Miracle' is yet another downbeat song lyrically, but the instrumentation and singing have that 1970s feeling again, and it is a track I think would be awesome live. The music almost doesn't fit the lyrics. I could imagine Dusty Springfield having a tilt at this. Nice.

And then we come to a song of hope – 'Hello Sunshine'. It's about not looking back, but looking ahead with optimism for the future. This was the first single released from the album, I believe, and not a bad choice for that. Another definite album highlight.

And we finish with 'Moonlight Motel', and I can't tell you exactly why, but this was my favourite song on the album. Some of the lyrical phrases are just wonderful: "… the pool's filled with empty, eight foot deep…". Wow. It's another song about nostalgia, looking back on something, maybe wistfully, but not without fondness. Just a glorious song and a fantastic way to finish this album.
springsteen, bruce, music, western stars
Springsteen in 2012

If you're a fan of the bombastic 1980s Springsteen output and haven't really followed him since, then maybe you'll be disappointed. But for people who like his work, who like gentle, relaxed music, who just want to let this man tell you stories in song, then I'd say grab this album. It's well worth it.


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