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Devils & Dust [DualDisc]

Devils & Dust [DualDisc]

4.2 7
by Bruce Springsteen

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The latter-day Springsteen, when he really has something to say, says it quietly -- a fact that's confirmed by the stripped-down, purposefully dusty ambience of this much-anticipated follow-up to The Rising. While not as sparse as, say, Nebraska or Tom Joad, Devils


The latter-day Springsteen, when he really has something to say, says it quietly -- a fact that's confirmed by the stripped-down, purposefully dusty ambience of this much-anticipated follow-up to The Rising. While not as sparse as, say, Nebraska or Tom Joad, Devils & Dust 's underlying simplicity -- in arrangements, lyric stance, and production -- makes it more like those albums than the bulk of Springsteen's full-band outings. That attitude is driven home early on by the country-steeped "All the Way Home," powered by a two-step rhythm and a wailing harmonica and made human by the plainspoken infatuation of the protagonist. The more downbeat "Reno," on which Springsteen is accompanied by a spare slide guitar and a subtle swell of strings, is equally rooted in southern culture, albeit more of the woozy, Kris Kristofferson stripe. Lyrically, the disc's most moving passages strike a similar chord, from the contemplative inner-city allegory "Black Cowboys" -- which pits a hard-edged narrative against a whisper-soft canvas of acoustic guitar and organ -- to the tumbleweed-dry dirge "The Hitter." Those songs, like Bruce's best work, tell the tales of individuals rather than movements, but there's no disputing the populist political waves that lap along the album's edges, cresting on the title track, which paints a clear picture of an ideological enemy without naming a single name. Springsteen employs that less-is-more approach again and again on Devils & Dust, never overstating, never overreaching -- and by doing so, he reaches his highest creative pinnacle in years.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Every decade or so, Bruce Springsteen releases a somber album of narrative songs, character sketches, and folk tunes -- records that play not like rock & roll, but rather as a collection of short stories. Nebraska, released in the fall of 1982 during the rise of Reagan's America, was the first of these, with the brooding The Ghost of Tom Joad following in 1995, in the thick of the Clinton administration but before the heady boom days of the late '90s. At the midpoint of George W. Bush's administration, Springsteen released Devils & Dust, another collection of story songs that would seem on the surface to be a companion to Nebraska and Ghost, but in actuality is quite a different record than either. While the characters that roam through Devils & Dust are similarly heartbroken, desperate, and downtrodden, they're far removed from the criminals and renegades of Nebraska, and the album doesn't have the political immediacy of Ghost's latter-day Woody Guthrie-styled tales -- themes that tied together those two albums. Here, the songs and stories are loosely connected. Several are set in the West, some are despairing, some have signs of hope, a couple are even sweet and light. Springsteen's writing is similarly varied, occasionally hearkening back to the spare, dusty prose of Nebraska, but often it's densely composed, assured, and evocative, written as if the songs were meant to be read aloud, not sung. But the key to Devils & Dust, and why it's his strongest record in a long time, is that the music is as vivid and varied as the words. Unlike the meditative, monochromatic The Ghost of Tom Joad, this has different shades of color, so somber epics like "The Hitter" or the sad, lonely "Reno" are balanced by the lighter "Long Time Comin'," "Maria's Bed," and "All I'm Thinkin' About," while the moodier "Black Cowboys" and "Devils & Dust" are enhanced by subtly cinematic productions. It results in a record that's far removed in feel from the stark, haunting Nebraska, but on a song-for-song level, it's nearly as strong, since its stories linger in the imagination as long as the ones from that 1982 masterpiece (and they stick around longer than those from Ghost, as well). Devils & Dust is also concise and precisely constructed, two things the otherwise excellent 2002 comeback The Rising was not, and that sharp focus helps make this the leanest, artiest, and simply best Springsteen record in many years. [Devils & Dust was released only as a DualDisc, a disc that contains a CD on one side and a DVD on the flip. The DVD contains a 5.1 mix of the album, plus a 30-minute film containing interviews with Springsteen and footage of him performing five songs live in the upstairs of a house; in other words, it's a staged performance, not a concert. The interviews are enjoyable, if not particularly interesting, while the live acoustic performances are not strictly unadorned -- "Reno" has pianos and synthesizers discreetly murmuring in the background, "All I'm Thinkin' About" has synths and backing vocals. It's a fine little film, but not something that merits frequent repeat viewings. The CD side appears to be copy-protected -- it did not read in either a PC with Windows XP or a Mac with OSX, so it cannot easily be ripped as MP3s.]
Rolling Stone - David Fricke
1/2 Springsteen's most audacious record since the home-demo American Gothic of 1982's Nebraska.
Entertainment Weekly - Chris Willman
When it comes to combining a literary quality with a colloquial voice, nobody does it better -- still. (A-)

Product Details

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Bruce Springsteen   Primary Artist,Bass,Guitar,Percussion,Drums,Keyboards,Tambourine,Vocals
Patti Scialfa   Background Vocals
Lisa Lowell   Background Vocals
Nashville String Machine   Strings
Brendan O'Brien   Bass,Sitar,Tamboura,Hurdy-Gurdy,Sarangui
Mark Pender   Trumpet
Chuck Plotkin   Piano
Marty Rifkin   Steel Guitar
Soozie Tyrell   Violin,Background Vocals
Daniela Federici   Keyboards
Steve Jordan   Percussion,Drums

Technical Credits

Bruce Springsteen   Composer,Producer
Nick DiDia   Engineer
Brendan O'Brien   Producer
Chuck Plotkin   Producer
Toby Scott   Engineer
Billy Bowers   Engineer
David Bett   Art Direction
Christopher Austopchuk   Art Direction
Danny Clinch   Director
Eddie Horst   Horn Arrangements,String Arrangements
Karl Egsieker   Engineer
Michelle Holme   Art Direction

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Devils & Dust [DualDisc] 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellent compilation, definite "Deadwood" influence, striking and pounding. These songs kick back to his beginings of songwriting with passion. A lot like "Greetings from Ashbury Park", including the "tainted women in vistavision" with a wild west theme 32 years later. Worth every penny with of all the extras.
Guest More than 1 year ago
So he put a little line in "Reno" that required "ADULT IMAGERY" warning and Starbucks refuses to play this CD. I'm sure Mr. Springsteen will not lose any sleep over it as I will not. This is still one of his greatest works. I've enjoyed Springsteen's music over the years and he still has it. These ballads has stories to tell and no one tells them better than the Boss.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bruce is still committed. The feeling is there and the lyrics are solid but the music is mediocre. "Jesus was an Only Son" is interesting but compared to "The Rebel Jesus" by Jackson Brown the song is weak. "Devil + Dust" is a musically inferior variation of his earlier "All that Heavan will Allow" which I quess makes it worthy of being the title song. "All the way Home" is entertaining but hardly profound or very original. Bruce is great but not on this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wonder how long it will take before the world realizes he is one of the greatest songwriter/poet/storytellers of our time... Makes you appreciate the beauty of well written lyrics. Truly another classic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some artist can at any moment dazzle everyone with the ability to make a classic record.....Try to think of any other artist to be able to put good to great records out over a 25-30 year period...There might be a handful....The title track Devils and Dust is great opener...All the way home has that classic Springsteen country rockabilly stomp to it........Reno might be the biggest jaw dropper on the album. Reno is a classic tale of wanting to fill everyones empty void with something so simple and taboo. I have to admit that for a long time I avoided Bruces music....Anytime you talk about Springsteens music to anyone you will get 1 of 2 reponses...."man he is great" or "he is Mr. Americana" the 2nd response is to the people who still think of Born in the USA as the fist pumping... nascar driving...God bless America music........Looking back I think pre judging Springsteens body of work was my mistake because this guy couldnt be further away from that image.....Great album from truly one of the best songwriters in our music history.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After the return of the E-Street Band, we find the Boss returning with his own brand of solo work. Several titles stand out, including the title track and "Jesus Was An Only Son", and some fall shorter, but overall, the album shines with songs that refuse to be less than full-blown narratives. Much in the vein of the Dylan songs that neglected songwriting staples like choruses and hooks, so Springsteen's new offerings move seamlessly through the stories of the characters presented, conveying their notes of hope, strength, and despair in rhythmic ways that move around conventional songwriting rules. They are, in the truest sense, stories of life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago