The Boss is back with his 19th studio album, “Western Stars.” With such a large discography, a fresh sound is hard to nail, but Bruce Springsteen has produced one of his best records to date.
With a June 14 release date, “Western Stars” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 only behind Madonna’s “Madame X.” These two are definitely a duo I did not expect to see holding the top two places in 2019 but welcomed warmly — it hasn’t happened since 1985.
Springsteen’s newest addition to his collection doesn’t have any dull spots. His classic, rugged voice is paired with heavy western influences in the musicality and lyrics that come together for a great listening experience.
Something Springsteen does well on this record that he hasn’t done yet is have a heavy emphasis on orchestra arrangements in his songs. Adding instruments like cellos and violins give so much depth and emotion to his sound.
The first song “Hitch Hikin’” sets the scene and tone for what’s to come. Singing “Thumb stuck out as I go/I’m just travelin’ up the road,” Springsteen expresses the country western ways of going with the wind and not knowing what’s next. Starting with just his voice and a guitar, it slowly builds with some orchestration to feel very carefree.
Springsteen has always written lyrics that tell vast stories with many characters, and nothing’s stopping him from continuing that tradition. “The Wayfarer” describes the life of a wanderer going from town to town. “Sleepy Joe’s Café” captures the atmosphere of a favorite small town café.
An oddity in the group is “Somewhere North of Nashville.” It is a very stripped-down song with not much instrumentation, which contrasts from the other songs that have the swelling symphonies. It’s also the shortest, running 1 minutes and 52 seconds in length.
But despite the length and basic music, “Somewhere North of Nashville” is still able to communicate regret and loneliness. And while it’s different, it still seems to fit perfectly in the mesh of the album by conveying a deep story with a western theme.
“Moonlight Motel” brings the listening journey to an end. It has a lullaby-like sound with slow strumming of guitars and hypnotic chords. Springsteen’s voice is much softer as well as he croons of the Moonlight Motel and the memories it brings.
Thirteen tracks is all it takes for Springsteen to deliver riveting stories and musical masterpieces. While most artists struggle to produce fresh work after only a handful of albums, the Boss is able to continue changing his style just enough to give a new tone but still staying true to his roots.
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