A wayfarin’ hitch-hiker takes a journey back out to big sky country to reflect on a life gone past. Along the way we learn he was a B-movie Stuntman whose proudest moment was a scene with screen icon John Wayne.
Painting a deceptively simple picture of creeping isolation, lost love, and futile attempts to outrun a road that has to end, Mr. Springsteen has composed a romantic yet melancholy tribute to the American ideals of the West.
Remembering good times at a local cafe where the work is left behind; ‘Monday is a million miles away’. Forgetting the mounting sadness of lost opportunity because the western stars are out tonight.
The thematic thread woven through are light and dark; sunrise and sundown; the sun and the moon.
Evoking this vision are understated orchestrations that support the vocals in even tempo. At times the sweeping beauty of the notes will fill you with longing.
This is because our western star is waiting for his lost love to return. He knows this is a fool’s errand. “Tuscon Train”, “Stones”, and “There Goes My Miracle” are songs of tortured romance literally gone south.
The album’s centerpiece track, “Drive Fast” (The Stuntman), shows a physically broken man whose wounds are his only companion. The steel rod in his leg walks him home each night.
The last song on the album is “Moonlight Motel”. A memory of lost lovers enjoying an afternoon delight in a derelict place. The physical structures have gone to seed while their love blossoms. A place once made for nighttime pleasures becomes the sight of a self-made Eden.
Quite a beautiful album that is able to relate this tale of loss and loneliness without making its listener feel too sad. The melodies are uplifting; the vocals are empathetic.
In the daylight chasing wild horses, running for countless miles is enough to outrun the impending gloom. There is a deep abiding respect for this rugged place by the man at the center of it all—The Boss.
In lieu of a tour for this record, Bruce Springsteen makes his directorial debut on October 25, 2019 with “Western Stars”.
The film is a performance of the album with orchestra before an audience. An album, “Western Stars” Film Version will be released. It’s the same track list as the studio LP except for the addition of “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell.
“Sundown” is the first single released from the film version album. The new versions seem to have even more developed orchestration.
E Street Stardom/Solo Magic
For decades now Bruce Springsteen has piece by piece constructed a music career that continues to inspire longtime listeners and attract newcomers.
He has enjoyed commercial success but did not count only on selling his music but by creating a persona that was larger than his self but true to who he is offstage.
After listening to “Western Stars” over and over digitally I found my own take. His E Street albums are the rockstar track built with hits like “The River”, “Born To Run”, and “Born In The USA”.
The solo albums have been allowed by an audience that deeply appreciates his hard work in not just entertaining them but making them think too. This is the internal track of non rock Lp’s that delve into Americana, Folk, and Protest music.
His catalog is like a puzzle with thousands of pieces. For years I was distracted enough not to see what he was doing. Building his following slowly in bars/clubs on the Jersey Shore then reaching a zenith with sold out stadiums. He never relies on just hit singles. He becomes by word of mouth a legendary presence. His audience bestows the nickname, The Boss, to signify to them what he represents in the music world.
The solo work allows Bruce to work on music that he knows will not sell stadiums nor spend weeks at the top of the chart. It’s material he hopes will alternately take listeners down musical byways that cannot fit into the mainstream rock frame of the E Street Band.
I feel there are few solo artists doing such consistently fine work as Mr. Springsteen. Bob Dylan comes to mind. The Boss seeks long term attachment with his audience. He gets it because of the trust built upon decades of great work both rocking and reflective.
I hope the puzzle is not near completion.
Bruce Springsteen is performing at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 5th. A benefit for Stand-Up For Heroes.