Album review for “Wrecking Ball” by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen doesn’t need an introduction. He’s one of the most successful rock artists of all time and has had a very long and fruitful career. In his 17th studio album, “Wrecking Ball,” Bruce presents a collection of songs about the working class, faith, hope, strength and determination.

The pulse of drums introduces “We Take Care of Our Own.” Bruce’s gritty vocals sing a patriotic proclamation of America’s spirit and people. “Where’s the love that has not forsaken me? Where’s the work that set my hands, my soul free? Where’s the spirit that’ll reign, reign over me? Where’s the promise, from sea to shining sea? Wherever this flag is flown.”  A folksy, southern rock sound permeates the next track, “Easy Money.” Old West images are tossed around in the lyrics, telling the tale of two people looking for a carefree time.

Shackled and Drawn” is another country-inspired song with imagery about a man in either figurative or literal slavery, working hard in the hot sun to make a living. In the closing seconds, a woman sings, “I want everybody to stand up. I want everybody to stand up and be counted tonight. You know we got to pray together.” Layers of guitars, horns, and strings cover “Jack of All Trades,” a moving track about a man taking on any work he can find in order to take care of his family: “I’ll mend your roof to keep out the rain. I’ll take the work that God provides. I’m a Jack of all trades. Honey, we’ll be alright.

A palpable Celtic sound takes center stage on “Death to my Hometown.” Bruce sings of destruction brought on his hometown, not by bombs or guns, but by greedy bankers that have shut down factories. Bruce’s inflections on certain words make it seem as if he was really Irish. A steady drumbeat and distorted guitars lay the foundation for “This Depression,” a song about reaching out to someone during a dark time. “This is my confession, I need your heart. In this depression, I need your heart.” The title track, “Wrecking Ball,” follows. Musically, the song is polished and catchy. Lyrically, it’s flawed with some crass slang and bad advice to “hold on to your anger.” The core of the song, however, is a call to stand against inevitable opposition and triumph over fear.

You’ve Got It” is next. Bruce sings a straightforward, southern-rock tinged song about his girl who has that special something that can’t be found in anyone else. “Honey, it ain’t got a name. You just know it when you see it.” Gospel singer Michelle Moore lends her voice in the creative and risk-taking “Rocky Ground.” Using spiritual allegories, Bruce echoes the theme of the album: holding onto faith and overcoming obstacles. In an unexpected moment, a short rap (written by Springsteen and performed by Michelle Moore) makes an appearance. Strange as it may be, it actually works.

Although physically absent from the record, the E Street Band is channeled in “Land of Hope and Dreams,” a track about hopping a train and traveling to a place of opportunity and hope. Bruce pushes his vocals in the bridge as he sings “This train carries saints and sinners. This train carries losers and winners…This train, dreams will not be thwarted.  This train, faith will be rewarded.”

Rounding out the album is a quirky and folksy song, “We Are Alive,” which speaks of the afterlife and how people’s spirits and memories live on. “We are alive. And though our bodies lie alone here in the dark, our spirits rise to carry the fire and light the spark, to stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart.” A lot of influences can be heard on this track, including Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. Bruce’s poetic and striking lyrics make this song a stand-out and a fine ending to a fine album.

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