Devils and Dust (2005)


1. Devils and Dust 2. All the Way Home 3. Reno 4. Long Time Comin' 5. Black Cowboys 6. Maria's Bed 7. Silver Palomino 8. Jesus was an Only Son 9. Leah 10.The Hitter 11.All I'm Thinkin' About 12.Matamoros Banks

 

When word got out that Springsteen was about to put out another one of his "quiet, introspective" albums, some people got a little nervous. Could this be a masterpiece like Nebraska? Or would it be another disaster like The Ghost of Tom Joad which sounded more like a narrative as opposed to a collection of actual songs?

Well, fortunately, neither. Although, this is definitely a "quieter" album, "quiet" is a relative term. It's not a rock and roll album with the E Street Band, yet a collection of simpler tunes that are different from his previous collections in that, in many of these songs, he uses a full band to accompany him. This makes a world of difference. Of course, there are about three or four songs that sound a little "Tom Joadish". Songs like Black Cowboys, Matamoros Banks and The Hitter suffer a bit of too much story telling over a guitar as opposed to decent melodies. None of them are quite as painful as those on The Ghost of Tom Joad, and they have at least a bit of a melody going through them that may not be extremely appealing, but won't put you to sleep either. The key is moderation. Had we had an entire album of songs in this vein, it would have been much easier to dismiss.

Every other song on here is extremely powerful. The title track is a response to the mess in Iraq that we got ourselves into - from the perspective of a scared young soldier in the desert. Although it's powerful, I'm glad Bruce didn't record an entire album around this theme. That could have gotten old quickly. Also in the "heavy but pretty good" department is Reno about a fictitious visit to a prostitute. Pretty risque stuff, filled with vulgar language that really isn't Springsteen's trademark, but the song sets the mood up pretty well. You can just see the sleazy smoke filled motel room where this interaction takes place. Powerful indeed.

Surprisingly, the rest of the album plays much lighter than what we're used to hearing when we think of "serious" Springsteen. Songs like Maria's Bed, All I'm Thinkin' About and Long Time Comin' sound like, with a little bit more work, could have been classic E Street songs. That's not to say they should be. All of the arrangements of these songs are perfect, and whereas the lyrics may not necessarily be chipper and bright (this is Springsteen, remember), the music definitely has a light touch.

This was a very well received album by fans and critics alike. He did a "smaller" tour - one of those ones where he played to smaller venues by himself and requested the audience to be "as quiet as possible" during the set. This album may not have the strong impact of a Nebraska, but you could argue that in many ways this one is a bit better. It's almost is if he had taken those "demos" that he released by themselves on that album and decided to turn them into full fledged songs. It was also nice to see that the huge success of The Rising was not a one time "comeback" fluke either.

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