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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

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Letter to You – Bruce Springsteen
*** ½

I’ve been a long-time fan of Springsteen’s music, though not his politics. The first of his albums that I bought new was 1978’s excellent Darkness on the Edge of Town. I fondly remember humming songs from that album – “Prove it All Night”, “Badlands”, etc. – as I was walking through an office building doing an end of night inspection as the manager of a cleaning crew while going to college.
Letter to You is the 71-year-old Springsteen’s twentieth studio album, and first with the E Street Band (Roy Bittan, Nils Lofgren, Patti Scialfa, Garry Tallent, Stevie Van Zandt, Max Weinberg, Charlie Giordano and Jake Clemons), since 2014’s High Hopes. The album was produced by Ron Aniello and assisted by Springsteen.
Springsteen wrote all of the songs, most of which were written in April 2019. Three of the songs “Janey Needs a Shooter”, “If I Was a Priest” and “Song for Orphans” date back to the early 1970’s. The album was recorded live in just five days at Springsteen’s home studio with very minimal overdubs.
This is a very personal album. Themes include loss of friends, relationships, looking back, the power of music, and spirituality.

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Springsteen fans will, as I did, enjoy the familiar sounds of the E Street Band on this album, bringing back memories of previous songs or concerts that you may have experienced in the past. The album is good, and solid throughout, making it one of the better releases of 2020, but it lacks any really great songs, which to me keeps it from being among Springsteen’s all-time best releases.
Below are a few comments about each song:
One Minute You’re Here – Springsteen has stated that the album was influenced by the loss of close friends and former band members, such as E-Street Band members Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici. This subdued opener is about how friends and loved ones are seemingly here one minute and gone the next. The song features Springsteen backed by acoustic guitar, before being joined by organ, piano and light percussion.
Key lyric:
I lay my penny down on the rails
As the summer wind sings its last song

Letter to You – This was the first song released from the album and has a true E-Street Band feel to it with guitars, organ and drums starting the song. There is a nice break featuring guitar and organ mid-song. The song features some excellent drum work by Weinberg. The song has Springsteen addressing his listeners about his music (his letter).
Key lyric:
Things I found out through hard times and good
I wrote ’em all out in ink and blood
Dug deep in my soul and signed my name true
And sent it in my letter to you

Burnin’ Train – This rocker opens with guitar and drums and features a few blistering guitar solos. The song is about a relationship, perhaps with his wife Patti.
Key lyric:
I wanted you to heal me
But instead you set me on fire

Janey Needs a Shooter – Springsteen wrote this nearly seven-minute story song in 1972, but could not release it due to a pending lawsuit. The song opens with drums and organ and shows off the genius of the E Street Band, including harmonica and backing vocals. This one will sound great in concert.
Key lyric:
Janey needs a shooter now
A shooter man who knows her style
The way that I know her style

Last Man Standing – With the death of George Theiss in 2018, Springsteen became the only living member of his first band the Castiles. He is the last man standing. The song, dedicated to Theiss, begins with Springsteen singing over acoustic guitar before the band kicks in on verse three. The song features some excellent sax work from Clemons.
Key lyric:
Rock of ages lift me somehow
Somewhere high and hard and loud
Somewhere deep into the heart of the crowd

The Power of Prayer – This song, which has nothing to do with prayer, again features some excellent sax work from Clemons and piano from Bittan. The song opens with piano, before Weinberg’s drums leads the rest of the band in.
Key lyric:
I’m reaching for heaven, we’ll make it there
Darling, it’s just the power of prayer

House of a Thousand Guitars – On an album surprisingly free of political commentary, Springsteen takes a shot at Donald Trump, singing:
The criminal crown has stolen the throne,
He steals what he can never own.
This mid-tempo song is about the healing power of music. The song features piano, and a guitar solo.
Key lyric:
So, wake and shake off your troubles, my friend
We’ll go where the music never ends

Rainmaker – The song is about a charlatan who promises to bring rain to drought-stricken farmers. But it’s also about our modern-day politicians. The song features a memorable chorus.
Key lyric:
Sometimes folks need to believe in something so bad, so bad, so bad
They’ll hire a rainmaker

If I Was the Priest – This story song was one of the songs Springsteen performed at his 1972 Columbia Records audition, but had never recorded until now. Springsteen has often included Christian imagery in his songs. In his autobiography he stated that he came to realize that once you’re a Catholic, you’re always a Catholic. This song includes Catholic, along with the old West imagery. The song begins with acoustic guitar before the full band joining in. In this song, Jesus is the sheriff and the Virgin Mary runs the Holy Grail saloon.
Key lyric:
There’s still too many outlaws trying to work the same line

Ghosts – This rocker, along with “Last Man Standing” is dedicated to George Theiss. It pays tribute to those bandmates that Springsteen has lost. The E Street Band really shines on this song.
Key lyric:
Count the band in then kick into overdrive
By the end of the set we leave no one alive

Song for Orphans – This song was written in 1971 and features Springsteen on harmonica. It’s hard to tell what the meaning of this song, with its wordy verses, means. It’s my least favorite song on the album.
Key lyric:
Well sons they search for fathers, but the fathers are all gone
The lost souls search for saviors, but saviors don’t last long

I’ll See You in My Dreams – This song opens with acoustic guitar, piano and organ before the full band kicks in, including a guitar and organ solo mid-song. Springsteen sings about those that he has lost and indicates that death is not the end because he’ll see them in his dreams.
Key lyric:
And though you’re gone and my heart’s been empty it seems
I’ll see you in my dreams

Best songs:
Letter to You
Burnin’ Train
Janey Needs a Shooter
Ghosts
I’ll See You in My Dreams


  • Carrie Underwood Gospel Album. Listen to “Softly and Tenderly” by Carrie Underwood from her album of gospel hymns My Savior, to be released on March 26.
  • New Music from NF. NF recently announced his new ten-song mixtape Clouds, to be released March 26. Watch the video for the title track.
  • New Music from TobyMac. Watch the video for TobyMac’s new song “Help Is On The Way (Maybe Midnight)”.

Lovingkindness – Keith and Kristyn Getty, Matt Boswell, Matt Papa and Matt Redman

This week’s song of the week is “Lovingkindness” written and performed by Matt Boswell, Matt Papa and Matt Redman. Enjoy the official lyric video here.

Let praises now awake the dawn
We’ll greet Your mercy with a song
Your people stand and sing for all
Your lovingkindness
You’ve carried us in faithfulness
Upon the paths of righteousness
Our gracious King You’ve crowned us with
Your lovingkindness

CHORUS
How great is Your lovingkindness
O God of goodness
Our joy forever to sing the glad refrain
Of grace that saved us
Of sweet forgiveness
O how great is
Your lovingkindness

You lift us with a Father’s hand
You shelter us with Your commands
What heart could fully comprehend
Your mercies endless
You lead us through the shadows deep
Where doubts trace every step, it seems
But as the darkness breaks we’ll see
The morning promise

CHORUS

A life laid down to rescue us
With arms outstretched upon the cross
The greatest Gift there ever was

Of lovingkindness
A life laid down to rescue us
With arms outstretched upon the cross
The greatest Gift there ever was
Of lovingkindness
Your lovingkindness

CHORUS x2

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 40 years and a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Before retiring I served as a manager at a Fortune 50 company; I'm a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and in leadership at my local church. I enjoy speaking about calling, vocation and work. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinders themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever, and my two StandOut strengths roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book and 2 Corinthians 5:21 my favorite verse. Some of my other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son (originally titled A Tale of Two Sons) by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music, with Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo being some of favorite artists.

2 thoughts on “MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

  1. Bill,

    I have been an enormous fan of Warren Zevon and I have loved his ‘Jeannie needs a shooter’. this is an interesting article about the roots of the songs:

    https://estreetshuffle.com/index.php/2020/10/23/spare-parts-warren-zevon-jeannie-needs-a-shooter/

    Hope you are both well.

    Phil

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