Anyone who has seen Springsteen perform with his E-Street Band over the past few years knows he is not slowing down or mellowing out. His marathon concerts are legendary. On Western Stars, his first album of new material in five years, he has a different agenda. This album pays respectful homage to the Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell collaborations of the late 1960s (think “Wichita Lineman”) with orchestrations that serve to give the album a panoramic sound. This is music that evokes the American West lyrically and musically. You can almost see the cactus and tumbleweed as the album plays.
What has not changed, though, is Springsteen’s ability to channel the lives of working men and women, those who struggle every day to find meaning. In “The Wayfarer,” he manages in just a few lines to communicate the weariness in the soul of the narrator: “You start out slow in a sweet little bungalow, something two can call home / Then rain comes fallin', the blues come calling, and you're left with a heart of stone.” The power of Springsteen’s music is that, by being specific with his characters, they become universal and paint a picture of people we rub shoulders with every day. Western Stars shows that, at age 69, Springsteen still has a lot to say. (Columbia Records)