When it comes to Bruce Springsteen, we get stories deeply embedded within well-crafted lyrics and beautifully driven by a usual blend of excellent musicianship. This is especially true with his time spent with the E-Street Band. As for me, I’m a stubborn one. If you ask me which Springsteen album I find most appealing, I’m going to tell you that Born To Run is an untouchable Rock and Roll essential. It’s followed closely by Darkness On The Edge Of Town, albeit bleaker than Born To Run. Born To Run has a stream of hope within it where Darkness has none. And, if you were to ask me, I’d say that subsequent albums were variable shades of good, but nothing as strikingly beautiful and painfully dark as THE TWO. With that said, I – perhaps unfairly – hold everything bearing Bruce Springsteen’s venerable name to a high standard solidly established by Born To Run, and Darkness. To date, while I may like – even love – a song, all subsequent albums have fallen short.
With Western Stars, I’ve come as close as I can possibly can to falling in love with a new Springsteen album, post Darkness. And I sincerely appreciates Nebraska. But Western Stars may soon eclipse the quality of Nebraska. Western Stars opens with a heart-felt “Hitch-hikin'” that has me wonderin’ where THAT honesty comes from within the soul of an otherwise stable individual. But I feel it. “The Wayfarer” delivers the same hunger and desire with its lyrics of wandering. “Tucson Train” takes it up notches higher. I discover that they’re all birthed by “Hungry Heart”.
Easily, the entirety of Western Stars is a book of tales that has an underlying blood flow of sadness and hope. Musically, all of Western Stars is a cold needle of notes and sounds, all plunging within the vein. This makes Western Stars a classic stand alone Springsteen album that touches souls. For every one of us who never found a place to call our own; who felt alone and homeless everywhere we set our anchors down, Western Stars is our cry of pain. It easily surpasses many of Springsteen’s earlier works, Born To Run, and Darkness excluded (they’re pretty much impassable or insurmountable). It is sidling up next to Nebraska.
I’m quite aware that my views do not reflect those of most Springsteen fans. And that’s as it should be. If you love Bruce and everything he touches, then that is as it should be. But I’ve spent a literal lifetime waiting to once again be soulfully moved by Bruce Springsteen. Western Stars does a fine job of achieving that. Western Stars is a full-bodied, cohesive, and complete album and is deserving of your attention.