July 2005

Bruce Springsteen - Devils & Dust
Columbia CN 93900
Format: DualDisc
Released: 2005

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

Bruce Springsteen’s special talent has always been in showing us the things we don’t know about the people around us. He doesn’t reduce them to stereotypes, and as a result we trust him and the characters he creates. Because of that trust, it is possible for him to sing in the voice of a soldier in Iraq on the title track of his new disc, Devils & Dust. Even people who support the war may find what he says to be a word of caution rather than an accusation.

It is the human details in Springsteen’s songs that make them ring true. In "Reno" a man visits a prostitute but can’t shake the memory of a former lover, while in "Long Time Comin’" another man lies next to his pregnant wife and sees hope in his future. Springsteen, a lapsed Catholic, still believes in hope and grace. It follows that "Jesus Was An Only Son" says more about its subject than does a lot of contemporary Christian music.

Devils &Dust is a spare recording compared to those Springsteen has done with his E-Street Band, but it’s not as bare bones as Nebraska or The Ghost of Tom Joad. Brendan O’Brien (who co-produced) and other musicians bring some valuable touches to the songs. The CD sound is sharply etched, but the PCM stereo on the DVD side is spacious and has a much deeper soundstage. Springsteen comments on the songs on the video portion of the DVD and performs them on acoustic guitar.

Even for an artist as consistently brilliant as Bruce Springsteen, Devils & Dust is a singularly moving, resonant disc.