• Darby VanDeVeen

Bruce Springsteen embraces his years of wisdom on “Letter to You”

“Bruce Springsteen writes with the authority that can only come after 20 albums and 56 years in the industry.”

Letter to You is the 20th studio album from New Jersey rock legend, Bruce Springsteen. He pulls on his signature gravelly delivery and small-town ideology that has served him so well over his impressive career. Being a Jersey girl myself, I haven’t listened to as much of Springsteen’s discography as I should have (though there is a special place in my heart attending a Jersey show). Letter to You is the first time I’ve listened to an album from ‘The Boss’ in full and I was well pleased with what I heard.

Bruce Springsteen writes with the authority that can only come after 20 albums and 56 years in the industry. At 71 years old, Springsteen has not slowed down one bit. After the death of George Theiss in 2018, Springsteen found himself the “last man standing” from his first band, The Castiles. Letter to You opens with the understated “One Minute You’re Here” and gives listeners the chance to reflect on the suddenness of death and change.

The E-Street Band comes together for a great recording and instrumentation to back Springsteen’s matter-of-fact vocal delivery. The songs don’t change up the formula too much from previous recordings but carry that Springsteen flavor everyone has come to know and expect. As with the majority of songs from The Boss, these would sound more at home in a packed stadium than streaming through headphones, so as soon as concerts are allowed to happen again you can bet that I’ll be in line to buy a ticket.

Themes of reflection carry over the majority of the album in songs like “Last Man Standing,” “House of a Thousand Guitars,” and new fan-favorite “Ghosts,” which is one of Springsteen’s best songs yet. Highlighting small details such as “thrift store jeans and flannel shirts” while singing about a loss adds a personal touch that many artists fail to figure out.

Including three songs written in the 70s - “If I Was the Priest,” “Song for Orphans” and “Janey Needs a Shooter” - which also provide a time capsule for long time fans and add to the idea of loose ends being tied. Each of the songs passes the 6-minute mark and slightly overstays its welcome. While such a song would work well in a live setting, listening to them at home can become tedious and would make me skip to the next song halfway through.

Closing on “I’ll See You in My Dreams” ties the entire record together with a message of hope that has become so prominent in 2020. Keeping mementos such as old guitars and jackets keep those close to us alive even when they’ve passed. Springsteen keeps the faith that he’ll reunite with those loved ones in his dreams where they’ll “meet and live and laugh again” since “death is not the end.”


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