Bruce Springsteen Taps Into a Bygone Era of the American West on ‘Western Stars’

Bruce Springsteen is an artist that has tapped into American culture in a profound way, a way that’s made him a symbol of virtually everything this country stands for. As he ventures into new musical territory, Springsteen is going stronger than ever on his latest album “Western Stars,” a fitting title, as it captures that distinctive quality of the American West, and fleshes it out into a set of songs that resonate with flavor. Springsteen is so much of a name that an album from “The Boss” is quite an event, and with “Western Stars” he delivers an ode to a bygone America, while showing all the lustre that you might expect from his legacy.

The album starts with Springsteen’s voice, no introductions needed. “Hitch Hikin’” is as folksy as you might expect from the title, with echoes of Bob Dylan throughout, and classic Springsteen. Lines like “I’m a rolling stone, just rolling on” succeed in absolutely communicating a specific mentality and strata. The refrain of “I’m hitch hikin’ all day long” should get the point across. ”The Wayfarer” does a more immediate job in capturing these particular themes, with lines like “I’m a wayfarer, baby, I roam from town to town / When everyone’s asleep and the midnight bells sound.” It effectively captures the lifestyle of the troubadour and the mystique that comes with it.

“Tucson Train” strikes as a bit of a surprise in how southern Springsteen sounds. He’s really tapping into the country spirit with songs like this, and he pulls it off just right. The song is about searching for a new life, and captures the mentality that comes with it. On “Western Stars,” Springteen sings, “Then I give it up for that little blue pill.” The theme fits in quite right, as Springsteen’s general point is just making sense of things, rather than questioning them. “Sleepy Joe’s Cafe” is essentially a reflection on random thoughts that aren’t particularly profound, but for that very reason, they are especially worth bringing up, because they don’t normally come up in conversation, and Springsteen manages to work them into songs in a way that really makes them resonate.

Springsteen zeroes in on a certain universal mindset on “Drive Fast (The Stuntman).” With lines like “Drive fast, fall hard,” the song captures the idea of emotional impulsivity. On “Chasin’ Wild Horses” Springsteen delves boldly into country, and pulls it off exceptionally well. “Sundown” is a striking song, with lyrics like “I drift from bar to bar, here in lonely town / Just wishing you were here with me, come sundown.” “Somewhere North of Nashville” finds Springsteen going fully southern with his accent, and while short it’s another gem in a slew of songs very well executed.    

Springteen has always been largely about lyrics, and this album is no exception. The songs tell stories and capture feelings with a rare narrative detail, in a voice and musical conveyance that could hardly be better suited. In the end, “Western Stars” is a timeless Springsteen addition, an album with a free wandering spirit, and well in character, capturing the everyman culture that has always been at the core of Sprinsteen’s music. It is sure to resonate with longtime fans, as well as speak to a larger audience. 

Western Stars” is available June 14 on Apple Music.