Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #134. Subscribe to our print edition here!
After a truly momentous 19 studio albums, you might wonder if it’s worth giving Bruce Springsteen’s new offering – the country-influenced Western Stars – a spin, if at this point in the New Jersian’s career there’s anything new still happening to pique your interest.
Lo and behold, the answer is... Absolutely! The old saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks doesn’t apply here, because, well, Springsteen needs to be taught nothing. He draws on a little something called life to bellow through a set of songs that are more than just a turning of tricks – it’s genuine magic.
To create more individual and captivating songs, The Boss is drawing on an illustrious career and his near 70 years on the planet to create a set of characters and feeding into stereotypes of the lone western cowboy. The end result is a riveting collection of story-driven anthems that reinvent tired tropes and pull out a few rejuvenating surprises. Springsteen’s delivery of the bold, the bashful, and the sheer beautiful pose the question: just how much of his fictional creations are a reflection of his own storied life?
Worth highlighting are the stunning throwbacks to ‘70s pop ballads atop the raw honestly of modern folk. Driven by some of his most dextrous playing in years, it’s the collective culture of storytelling for which Springsteen is known that will be your focal point throughout this 51-minute epic.
Over 13 tracks of pure sonic gold, Springsteen explores the sensual tortured soul with a steel guitar and swell of strings – he captures a forlorn sense of wanting to belong in typically strong country licks; and, of course, his sumptuous tone carries all the varying tales down a smooth road of veritably jaw-dropping music.
Granted, there are some uncanny resemblances to one or two albums in the back catalogue – to be expected from someone with as many LPs as Springsteen – but ultimately, Western Stars is unlike anything we’ve heard from him before.
Review by Anna Rose.