An understated triumph from a wise outlaw...

The 2010s have been a tumultuous decade for fans of Bruce Springsteen. From the relative highs of 2012’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ and last year’s ‘On Broadway’ Netflix documentary and accompanying album, to the (ironically) career-lows of 2014’s ‘High Hopes’, The Boss has delivered a significantly more mixed-bag than his devoted fans are accustomed to. This project carries a significant weight of expectation, as his first solo project in nearly fifteen years.

Not returning to the introverted, emotionally-devastating world of ‘Nebraska’ or the fun-loving synths of ‘Tunnel Of Love’, here Springsteen comfortably occupies his long-foreshadowed role as a wise outlaw who’s seen more pretenders come and go than most of us have had cooked dinners.

On songs like ‘Tucson Train’ or ‘Somewhere North Of Nashville’, the travelling man philosophises over how much road is left to travel and the perils waiting at journey’s end. On lead single ‘Hello Sunshine’, shuffling, muted acoustics create an air of contemplation and reflection, over which Springsteen’s twinkly-eyed optimism is a welcome and familiar companion. The heart of this album is ‘Sleepy Joe’s Café’, influenced by the buoyant atmosphere of past hits like ‘Glory Days’.

‘Western Stars’ is an understated triumph, righting the wrongs of his last few releases and more than emphasises the fact that Springsteen is still brilliant enough to be invested in.

8/10

Words: Mike Watkins

Dig it? Dig deeper: John Prine, Strand Of Oaks, Father John Misty

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