Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Reimagining of Bruce Springsteen's Born In the U.S.A.

It has been 30 years since the original release of Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., the best-selling album in America in 1985 as well as Springsteen’s most successful album. It is now being reimagined in its entirety by a group of country and americana artists including Jason Isbell, Holly Williams and Justin Townes Earle.

Born in the U.S.A. was a departure for Springsteen’s sound in which the use of a more pop-flavoured and heavily synthesised approach enabled the musician to extend his popularity and appeal to mainstream audiences. In his previous release in 1982, Nebraska, Springsteen’s style was extremely sparse with the songs being recorded as demos on a cassette-tape. It is in this dark and acoustic style found on Nebraska that all 12 songs on Born in the U.S.A have been reinvented.

This style is perhaps present in its extremity on the cover of the iconic title-song Born in the U.S.A. by Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires. Speaking about the song with Rolling Stone Country, Isbell stated: "I love that the song paints a picture of struggle in the face of the American dream, and the irony in the chorus is delivered with such force that it nearly transcends irony altogether." His wife, Amanda Shires, added “…so many people have seemingly misunderstood the lyrical content and the song's overall tone. When you listen to the demo, the dark, minor key arrangement makes it clear that this is not strictly a song of celebration. We wanted to stay true to that version.”

It is exactly this darkness which allows their version to flourish and stand proudly against Springsteen’s original. For whilst the original’s success lay in its catchy nature with the continuous synthesised melody over the top of Springsteen’s high, roaring vocals, the success of Isbell and Shires' cover lies in the way they allow the true emotion of the lyrics to be brought to the forefront.

The song begins with a mournful entry from Shires’ fiddle, and along with the slower tempo and minor key, conveys the dark mood from the outset. The clear projection of Isbell’s vocals against a sparse instrumentation allows the listener to ponder on Springsteen’s emotionally charged lyrics and his captivating story: “Born down in a dead man's town / The first kick I took was when I hit the ground / You end up like a dog that's been beat too much / Till you spend half your life trying to cover it up.” The quality of Isbell’s vocals is one of the most powerful features of this cover; he sings with a captivating intensity which produces a cold, almost haunting ambiance and leaves the listener feeling the weight of every single exertion, truly understanding the meaning of Springsteen’s lyrics.

Dead Man's Town will be released on 16th September. If the rest of the album is anywhere near as good as Isbell and Shires' cover, we are in for a real treat!

Full track list of Dead Man’s Town:

1. Born in the U.S.A. - Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires
2. Cover Me - Apache Relay
3. Darlington County - Quaker City Nighthawks
4. Working on the Highway - Blitzen Trapper
5. Downbound Train - Joe Pug
6  I'm on Fire - Low
7. No Surrender - Holly Williams
8. Bobby Jean - Ryan Culwell
9. I’m Goin’ Down - Trampled by Turtles
10. Glory Days - Justin Townes Earle
11. Dancing in the Dark - Nicole Atkins
12. My Hometown - North Mississippi All-Stars

No comments:

Post a Comment