photo by: Danny Clinch
Headin’ West with The Boss
I love the fact the first thing you hear on Bruce Spingsteen’s new record Western Stars is “Thumb stuck out as I go, I’m just traveling up the road.” The 13-track album starts off with an I’m on my way out of here voice – and there’s nobody better at writing car songs than The Boss. Though we are in a world of singles, playlists and streaming, I still believe there is something to be said for the body of work as a whole, from the opening note to the last. And here it is with Springsteen…. right away a simple, yet masterful composition where you know – yes, this is for sure The Boss.
But it’s also more than that. The Western Stars chapter began by sharing gorgeous visuals of western landscapes and “Hello sunshine won’t you stay”, which is technically the 12th song on the record. Therein lies the magic. You have this imagery that you pair with the theme of this art and then right away, you are in the car driving down these old-fashioned feeling country roads – from ‘Frisco to Tucson, up on the Montana line to north of Nashville you roll into each town with a pocket full of songs.
The point is – from the mood of first track “Hitch Hikin’”, it is nearly impossible not to imagine you are actually in backseat along for the ride. You don’t know where you are going but the sky looks as blue as the record cover with occasional accenting clouds. To the left and to the right are dirt fields that go on for miles and gleam as hot as the blazing sun piercing off them. The car is an old box of steel memories that’s as reliable as the person controlling the wheel. You’re not sure where exactly you are going but you’re content knowing you’re just following the western stars.
One major take-back of Springsteen’s previous endeavor – Springsteen on Broadway, was the poetic storytelling ability The Boss has to paint a picture with his words. The visualizing, the smelling every smell and feeling every feel continues down the path of Western Stars.
Along the way the journey leads you to and through many dusty roads of midnights and moonlights, ultimately placing you at a motel by the same name. You can think about what you just left behind and where you might go next while at the same time resting your head.
Like this record, selecting isolated sets of words to capture an overflow of emotion is no easy task. What you find is some come in the form of an entire song (or conversation) while others resonate in just a few words.
So, tonight the western stars are shining bright again
Maps don’t do much for me, friend
I follow the weather and the wind
Some find peace here on the sweet streets, the sweet streets of home
Where kindness falls and your heart calls for a permanent place of your own
Hard work’ll clear your mind and body
The hard sun will burn out the pain
“Sleepy Joe’s Cafe”
As the red sun sets in the ocean, I start to come alive
“Drive Fast (The Stuntman)”
*The whole damn song, but for example…
I got two pins in my ankle and a busted collarbone
A steel rod in my leg, but it walks me home
At nine, I climbed high into the boughs of our neighborhood’s tallest tree
I don’t remember the fear, just the breeze
Drive fast, fall hard, I’ll keep you in my heart
Don’t worry about tomorrow, don’t mind the scars
Just drive fast, fall hard
photo by: Danny Clinch
“Chasin’ Wild Horses”
You lose track of time
It’s all just storms blowin’ through
You come rollin’ ‘cross my mind
Your hair flashin’ in the blue
Like wild horses, just like wild horses
Just like wild horses
Fingernail moon in a twilight sky
Ridin’ high grass of the switchback
I shout your name into the canyon
The echo throws it back
Sundown ain’t the kind of place you want to be on your own
I woke up this morning with stones in my mouth
Said those were only the lies you’ve told me
Those are only the lies you’ve told me
I pulled my collar to the wind and spit them on the ground
You know I always liked that empty road
No place to be and miles to go
But miles to go is miles away
Hello sunshine, won’t you stay?
As I drove, there was a chill in the breeze
And leaves tumbled from the sky and fell
On a road so black as I backtracked
To the Moonlight Motel