Reviewed by Ian Phillips.
By Bruce Springsteen, Columbia Records/Sony Music 2020.
There are some artists who never seem to age and Brue Springsteen is one of them.
His voice is as good as it ever was and his song writing craftmanship is up there with the best that’s ever existed.
Like a good red wine that develops lovely aged textures, the venerable statesmen like Bob Dylan, Willy Nelson and Johnny Cash seemed to develop into ancient sounding oracles but in Bruce Springsteen’s case he sounds just the same as he did 40 years ago.
Letter To You has Bruce once again teamed up with the E Street Band and the songs contain all the energy and passion of many of his earlier albums.
Over recent years he’s branched out into theatre, released an album of songs related to his Broadway show, and a pared back album recorded in an old rural barn.
He’s experimented with orchestral elements and gone back to bare bone acoustic roots and in each case, he’s made them his own – as if he’s always inhabited these genres.
But it’s good to have him back with his rock band.
All the songs on Letter To You developed out of a close encounter with mortality.
Before the E Street Band Bruce was in The Castiles, and while he was performing his Broadway concerts George Theiss, who along with Bruce was the last living Castiles member, was in hospital dying of cancer.
In George’s last days Bruce held a vigil at his bedside and when George died, and Bruce became the last Castile, he experienced a creative outpouring that has resulted in Letter To You.
The songs are peopled by the usual cast of Springsteen characters as he sings about being in a band, departed friends, the lost and lonely, people on the edge of town or forever on the move.
Trains, rivers, but the fragility of life is ever present.
And the recording process was deliberately old school, as much as possible was done live with only a few overdubs.
The title track is up there with his best songs and is sure to become a standard in his live shows but the whole album is stadium ready and a homage to the E Street Band and a life’s work.
Everything about this album harks back to the glory days of packed stadiums, it’s a nostalgia trip, but maybe that’s exactly what we need at the moment.