I make no apologies, none whatsoever, for worshipping at the altar of Bruce. And I’m rarely happier than when pumping my fist in the air at a Springsteen concert as the great man himself winds the magnificent E Street Band up for another pounding, soulful anthem. But it’s a source of not inconsiderable frustration for us Boss-fans that Bruce’s public image, at least for vast swathes of the popular press, is determined exclusively by the bombast. When, as anyone who’s taken even the most cursory auditory glance at albums like Nebraska or Devils and Dust will know, at the core of this most authentic of artists is a dedication to spare, simple and evocative story-telling.
For Bruce is, first and foremost and always, a bluesman; able to capture and convey the heartbreak, frustration and unremitting grind of working-class America (even if his many millions mean he is far removed from such experiences; this makes his songs more, rather than less remarkable I think). One of the absolute peaks of this side of the Springsteen catalogue is this haunting tale of dustbowl California, from the album of the same name: The Ghost of Tom Joad.