Bruce Springsteen - Lucky Town
Having enjoyed incredible success in the decade of the 80's and not doing so bad in the 70's either, at the beginning of the 90's Bruce Springsteen was nonetheless an artist very much in search of himself. Having suffered a divorce a half decade earlier and chronicling the most intimate sides of romantic relationships on the late '87 release Tunnel Of Love, Bruce was now remarried, reborn, and rejuvenated after what for all intents and purposes were the most difficult and confusing years of his life. Having seen great fame and fortune laid before him, yet with great personal heartache and loss coming at the same time, Springsteen would find himself in a joyous and confessional mood at the turn of what would be a somewhat quiet decade for him musically speaking. Breaking up his marriage, breaking up his long time well regarded band, breaking away from New Jersey, and finding a new life for himself of family, children, and laying down roots now seemed priority number one to this sometimes puzzling American artist. But those things did not come without a price or a journey attached. Intent on moving on at all cost, Bruce Springsteen needed to rebuild his life. And like many songwriters, musicians, and artist, he needed to express and communicate his story to others. Lucky Town, Bruce's ninth studio album and most personal recording to date, is where he laid it all bare.
Beginning with the starting life again and optimistic "Better Days" which chronicles Bruce's recent loves and losses and eventual redemption, it's a loud and celebratory track that catches Bruce feeling good and moving forward in song and spirit. Moving quickly to the twangy title cut that finds the songwriter in search of better times and shedding his old skin, and then to the playful and knowing home town song "Local Hero", and the album is off to a good if uneven start, as these rock songs are more then decent material, but not really the true heart of the album. Jubilant as they are.
Next song is where the album really begins with a promise of commitment and devotion to his new love in the tender and heartfelt ballad "If I Should Fall Behind". "Each lovers steps fall so differently/I'll wait for you/And should I fall behind/Wait for me" Bruce sings, wearing his heart squarely on his sleeve. And these confessions of romantic desire continue on the very next track in the spirited and soulful"Leap Of Faith". "You were the Red Sea/I was Moses/I kissed you and slipped into a bed of roses/Your waters parted blood rushed inside/I was Jesus son, sanctified" Bruce sings at his poetic best. And it all works to a musical and lyrical tee.
The second half of the record begins on a darker tone with the ominous cautionary tale "The Big Muddy", which finds Bruce breaking out slide guitar and a very foreboding bass sound. A song with a twangy swamp like flavor, it sounds exactly as it's title suggest. Murky, muddy, and somewhat adrift. Moving from here to one of the more successful cuts on the album with the inspirational and emotional song of faith restored "Living Proof" where the songwriter chronicles his journey through heartbreak, loss, loneliness, fear, and the low places he found himself in as a result until finally coming out kicking and screaming on the other side, "Living Proof" is as good a straight forward rock song Springsteen has ever recorded. "You do some sad sad things/When it's you you're trying to lose/You do some sad and hurtful things/I've seen living proof" Bruce wails as the music pounds it all home. And it works brilliantly.
Finishing up the record we are treated to yet another song of romantic commitment to his new wife in the thoughtful and quiet ballad "Book Of Dreams", a song about the uselessness of unnecessary death in "Souls Of The Departed" (perhaps the most uneven track on the record) and the stunning and beautiful "My Beautiful Reward". Again finding himself regretful of his past sins and in search of relief and redemption, this is as revealing a song as Bruce has ever written about his own losses, struggles, and pain in life, and it offers another fascinating glimpse into the mind and heart of the songwriter just as several of the songs that have come before. Simply one of his best songs of the past twenty odd years.
Lucky Town is an unusual album for Bruce. Written in three weeks time and recorded by Bruce alone (he plays all instruments except piano and drums where noted) in just as many, it was an afterthought of sorts that came to be only after he had his next official album , the more commercial and pop "Human Touch", already in the can. Perhaps not saying all he had to say on that album or simply not being able to say it until other stuff was taken care of, Lucky Town feels a bit rushed, a little uneven from start to finish, and under produced and developed in places. But for all it's shortcomings it has just as many strengths that help it rise above a small personal album and reach the heights of a very good LP. Mature, forgiving, confessional, and the sign of a rebirth for this artist that continues to this day, it offers a unique glimpse into this man who was once born to run but who was now settling down and learning to live with himself, his new life, and his recently troubled past. And it's about as up close and personal as he has ever gotten on record. Certainly worth a listen, download, or purchase if you are even remotely interested in true, heartfelt recordings of any kind.
Tracklist for Lucky Town:
1. Better Days
2. Lucky Town
3. Local Hero
4. If I Should Fall Behind
5. Leap Of Faith
6. The Big Muddy
7. Living Proof
8. Book Of Dreams
9. Souls Of The Departed
10. My Beautiful Reward