Mack: Springsteen still The BossWritten by Jason Mack | | email@example.com
Bruce Springsteen, “Wrecking Ball”
The album needs only two selling points, which are Bruce Springsteen and the late Clarence Clemmons. It’s bittersweet listening to “Land of Hope and Dreams” and the title track because they are Clemmons’ final recordings before passing in June 2011. His saxophone solos are as poignant as ever and will be greatly missed from the E Street Band.
The timing of the album’s release just before St. Patrick’s Day is perfect as Springsteen delves deep into his Irish heritage with tracks like “Shackled and Drawn,” “Death to My Hometown” and “We Are Alive.” The special edition of the album closes with “American Land,” a straight-up Irish jig about immigrating to the United States. Springsteen is as aggressive and confrontational as ever with songs about broken government and economic justice.
The highlight of the album is the simple but poignant track “Jack of All Trades.” Springsteen croons about the hardships of the working class as soft piano and drums build to a powerful musical breakdown with guitar from Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello. The album is more musically experimental than usual for Springsteen with the Irish influence, electronic percussion, choral backgrounds and even mariachi horns. As is the norm for “The Boss,” it all works and it all rocks.
****1/2 out of 5
Neal McCoy, “XII”
With 11 studio albums under his belt, Neil McCoy is fully aware of his strengths as a country singer and songwriter. The result on “XII” is an album so catchy it has you singing along to the chorus of songs before finishing your first listen.
McCoy showcases his trademark humor throughout the album with songs like “Mouth,” telling stories of mistaking men for women and women for being pregnant. The album closes on a different note with “Van Gogh,” a ballad about artists finding beauty through suffering. It is no replacement for Don McLean’s “Vincent,” but it’s still a touching song showcasing McCoy’s soft side.
***1/2 out of 5
Andrew Bird, “Break It Yourself”
Andrew Bird is built for being a solo artist with his multi-instrumental talents on guitar, violin and even whistling. The album is at its strongest when Bird relies on his violin to drive songs like “Orpheo Looks Back” and “Behind the Barn.” With his strong vocals, brilliant lyrics and unique arrangements, Bird often comes off as a cross between Ray LaMontagne and The Shins. “Break It Yourself” is toned down compared to Bird’s recent albums and calls back to his early work like “Weather Systems.” The result is a slightly underwhelming but solid assortment of songs, the best of which is the moody “Near Death Experience Experience.”
***1/2 out of 5