Letter To You is Bruce Springsteen’s 20th studio album to released – The Boss, as he is often affectionately termed by fans, is an old hand at this game by now. Whilst still worthy, his latest albums haven’t been received as well as his ‘classic’ albums, which begs the question – how does Letter To You stand up? The answer to that is as follows – pretty well actually!
By Jane Howkins
Letter To You is a very good album – it’s not quite up there with Born In The U.S.A., but it’s close. The E Street Band are back playing behind Bruce again (and many of the songs on this album feel dedicated to them) in the way that only they can. It’s largely a rock record, however opener One Minute You’re Here (possibly the mellowest track on the record) is so folky that it could have also come from Nebraska, an album well known for its quietness. Most of the tracks on display here are new, but there are three older songs on offer that didn’t seem to fit right with any of his previous albums. Our favourite of the three is Janey Needs A Shooter, which sounds like classic Bruce from the get go.
When we first listened to Letter To You, we weren’t that impressed. As the old adage goes, it’s more of a grower, than a shower. At first listen there isn’t much to pull you immediately onboard, and there aren’t any instant hooks. Listen to the album a bit longer though, and the magic will slowly start to wear off on you, track by track. We highly recommend listening to it a few times and then if you really don’t like it by then, you can move on and carry on with your life.
Lyrically, the album is very reflective, seeing Bruce looking back at his past. Instead of commenting on events happening around the world, the singer-songwriter tends to look inward instead. This isn’t surprising considering that the man is now in his 70s, and we’re pleased that Bruce seems to have largely come to terms with the aging process, rather than rallying against it. Springsteen is known for being a fantastic lyricist and songwriter, and the songs on Letter To You only help to increase his standing in that field further. Ghosts and I’ll See You In My Dreams look in a different direction, towards the loss of George Theiss, a now deceased member of the E Street Band. Theiss is not the only E Street Band member to have passed on in recent years, and this album feels almost like a tribute to the band, to those both alive and dead.
That’s not to say that all the tracks on here are private affairs – Springsteen is also quite well known for his politics, with him typically being found on the left side of the political axis It seems to be no surprise that this album has been released a couple of weeks before the presidential election, with Rainmaker seeming to be about Trump. You can still listen to this album if you’re not into Springsteen’s politics though, and as previously stated, most of the tracks seem to be about more personal matters, so don’t let that put you off checking it out.
Overall, Letter To You is a good record, and one that we recommend our readers check out immediately. It may take a few spins to fully appreciate the album, but listen to it a few times and you should find yourself hooked. It’s a testament to Springsteen’s songwriting ability that after all these years he is still able to write songs that capture the hearts and imaginations of blue-collar America, whilst providing new revelations about himself.