Devils & Dust

Studio Album by released in 2005
Devils & Dust's tracklist:
Devils & Dust
All the Way Home
Long Time Comin'
Black Cowboys
Maria's Bed
Silver Palomino
Jesus Was an Only Son
The Hitter
All I'm Thinkin' About
Matamoros Banks

Devils & Dust review

Bruce Springsteen's nineteenth album, Devils & Dust, features twelve brand-new Springsteen songs covering themes as wide ranging as the anxieties – fears of the modern soldier in Iraq (Devils and Dust) to the loneliness and desperation of a man sharing a liaison with a prostitute whilst contemplating the loss of a loving relationship (Reno). Devils & Dust is an adult album in the truest sense. It covers both lyrically and sonically adult emotions in a way that most contemporary musicians either avoid or would struggle to articulate.

Every decade or so, Bruce Springsteen releases a somber album of narrative songs, character sketches, and folk tunes – records that play not like Rock & Roll, but rather as a collection of short stories. Nebraska, released in the fall of 1982 during the rise of Reagan's America, was the first of these, with the brooding The Ghost of Tom Joad following in 1995, in the thick of the Clinton administration. At the midpoint of George W. Bush's administration, Springsteen released Devils & Dust, another collection of story songs that would seem on the surface to be a companion to Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad, but in actuality is quite a different record than either.

Here, the songs and stories are loosely connected. Several are despairing, some have signs of hope, a couple are even sweet and light. But the key to Devils & Dust, and why it's his strongest record in a long time, is that the music is as vivid and varied as the words. Unlike the meditative, monochromatic The Ghost of Tom Joad, this has different shades of color, so somber epics like The Hitter or the sad, lonely Reno are balanced by the lighter Long Time Comin', Maria's Bed, and All I'm Thinkin' About, while the moodier Black Cowboys and Devils & Dust are enhanced by subtly cinematic productions. Devils & Dust is also concise and precisely constructed, and that sharp focus helps make this the leanest, artiest, and simply best Springsteen record in many years.

Taken as a whole, Devils & Dust can seem a bit difficult to categorize. It is, by turns, a country record, a folk record and even a bit of a rock record.

It is also a political record without any overt mention of politics, a collection of songs that explore the edge of hope and loss and failure. Devils & Dust is a re-imagining of America in the new millennium, a reconnection with the darkness deep in the country's soul, a darkness evident in the rush to war in Iraq and the thirst for revenge, in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, in the meanness of a presidential administration that has no allegiance to the most vulnerable of citizens. Ultimately, Devils & Dust does not break new ground. In many ways, it is rather conventional – a mostly acoustic collection that hearkens back to Bruce Springsteen's origins as a singer-songwriter – but it is this conventionality, in its acceptance of older American forms of music, where the disc hits its mark. It is clear that Springsteen remains a vital and relevant voice at a time when so many artists do little more than explore their own vanity.

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Total votes - 10

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