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Tuesday April 26, 2005 10:44 am
Gear Live Playlist: Bruce Springsteen - Devils & Dust, Martha Wainwright Reviews
This week in Playlist we have a new release from one of America’s greatest musical treasures, Bruce Springsteen. Along with the Boss, we have a disc from Martha Wainwright, a member of the reigning singer/songwriter royal family.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: DEVILS & DUST
Echoing 1995’s incredible “Ghost Of Tom Joad”, Bruce Springsteen’s new release is sparse, mostly acoustic guitar and harmonica, with only a light sprinkling of drums and piano. Springsteen has said that a lot of the songs on “Devils & Dust” were written on the road while supporting “Ghost Of Tom Joad”, and it is very evident. Both albums illustrate why some called and still call Springsteen the heir to Dylan’s role as America’s conscience. Both are poets with the ability to change the world with a guitar and some lyrics. Springsteen again exposes the underbelly of the American dream by telling stories about those left behind, instead of blindly railing against abstract ideas and concepts. In the song “Maria’s Bed”, Springsteen’s protagonist is a blue-collar laborer, per usual, who gets by on the little things in life. But instead of mining for sympathy, he receives salvation in the love of Maria, “I was burned by the angels, sold wings of lead, then I fell in the roses and sweet salvation of Maria’s bed”. Lyrics like that, along with accompaniment from organ and background singers, make “Maria’s Bed” another Springsteen gem. On the track “The Hitter”, Springsteen tells the story of a boxer who has been fighting inside and outside the ring since the day he was born. It’s the story of a man changed by the violence that permeates his life, a man who doesn’t kid himself that he trades pain for money, a fact of life for many of the people that Springsteen champions. Just an acoustic guitar and that voice tell that story like few on Earth can. As you listen or read the lyrics of each song, you realize that the man really is a poet. The only downside to this disc is the few tracks where Springsteen decides to sing in a higher register, and just doesn’t carry it off well. The tactic is odd, the focus has always been on the lyrics for Springsteen, and if anything the higher register is distracting. All in all, nothing beats the Boss, and this disc is one of his best, a 9/10.
When you are the daughter of Loudon Wainwright and Kate McGarrigle, and sister of Rufus Wainwright, you’re pretty much expected to write yourself some songs and release a disc or two. With both parents being singer/songwriters, as well as her brother, Martha Wainwright becomes the third member of her family to release a disc in 2005. But enough about her family, Martha Wainwright has such an amazing voice and songwriting abilities that she would be a force no matter who her parents or family was. One of the satisfying facets of Wainwright’s lyrics is her non-existent fear to veer from the poetic to the profane, to completely ignore what “ladylike” lyrics would be. No more is this evident than on the track “B.M.F.A”, which just the title alone will make some blush (Bloody Motherf***ing A**hole). But the title or lyric isn’t a gimmick by any means, the track is railing against her “role” in society, “I will not pretend, I will not put on a smile, I will not say I’m alright for you, when all I wanted was to be good, to do everything in truth”. With her brother’s help on background vocals, “The Maker” is another exceptional track with incredible cadence and poetic lyrics. In the end Wainwright writes tracks that proves she has a place at the family table, and a place in your CD collection, an 8/10.
- Greg Norton
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