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Bruce Springsteen | Western Stars

Meet the new Boss. Definitely not the same as the old Boss.

Life, it is said, is about the journey and not the destination. That certainly rings true for Bruce Springsteen — though for him, it also seems to be about the detours and side trips that take him away from E Street. Like his recent Broadway stint. Or his autobiography. Or even his latest album Western Stars. Out June 14, the 69-year-old singer-songwriter’s 19th studio outing and first solo release since 2005’s Devils and Dust is definitely off the beaten path. Lush and sophisticated, majestic and sweeping, these 13 tracks find Springsteen expanding his sonic and stylistic horizons with grand orchestral arrangements and cinematic expanse. He says it was influenced by Southern California pop music of the 1970s — but we’re not talking Fleetwood Mac and Journey here. We’re talking Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell, Harry Nilsson and Burt Bacharach. We’re talking the rich, warm sound of songs like By The Time I Get to Phoenix, Wichita Lineman and Everybody’s Talkin’ — but populated by Springsteen’s latest cast of misfits, wanderers, blue-collar heroes and broken men. Like the scarred stuntman brooding on a lost love in Drive Fast. The failed songwriter stuck Somewhere North of Nashville. The cowboy Chasin’ Wild Horses in Montana. The restless road dog with his thumb out in Hitch Hikin’. Their faces, their emotions, their struggles and failures will quite rightly feel familiar. They are, after all, variations of the same kind of stories Springsteen has been spinning for decades. But thanks to the widescreen spectacle of the arrangements — the stirring strings and moody horns — the stories feel bigger and bolder, deeper and more dramatic. But somehow, perhaps due to Springsteen’s eye for detail or returning producer Ron Aniello’s ear for balance, they never come off as shmaltzy or cheesy. Instead, they come off as musical equivalent of a great American novel. Or perhaps the soundtrack to a remake of an epic drama like How The West Was Won. But most certainly, Western Stars sounds like no other album in Springsteen’s catalogue. That alone is reason enough to take it out for a spin. It’s worth the trip.