Tag Archives: Nebraska

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Apr 19

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska


I’m getting ready to read Springsteen’s new autobiography, so I needed to get my head into the right sonic space, and if I had to pick one Springsteen album above all others, it would be this one.

If nothing else, listening to this album ought to out least make you pine for the days when the word ALBUM meant something. When we thought of ALBUMS the way we thoughts of novels, or plays, or paintings. We used to think of them as miniature self-defining and self-completing universes, with themes, and relationships, and … purposes.

This is a completed circle. It is a closed ecosystem.

It was a massive, massive artistic accomplishment, and it was a bloody brave move to release it. No major artist in the history of rock n’ roll music had ever—or HAS ever—taken such a decidedly unexpected—and completely non-commercial—left turn at the height of their careers. And Springsteen was at the HEIGHT. At this point, he had become The Boss. He was Bruuuuuuce! He was the Hungry Heart.

And then, suddenly, he wasn’t. Suddenly, the man who spent 4 weeks in the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 decided to release an album recorded on a 4-track cassette recorder. An album whose very first lyric was this one:

I saw her standing on her front lawn just twirling her baton
Me and her went for a ride sir and ten innocent people died

Searching For The Perfect Road Song

TheRoadThe perfect road song is a kind of Holy Grail for songwriters.

To write it is to experience a holy striking of compositional lightning, the result of which is ideally a song magically evoking the singular juxtapositions of fear and exhilaration that inevitably define a long, possibly late-night, and certainly lonely drive.

This is something I believe all songwriters pursue.

My most recent attempt did not succeed. It is not the perfect road song.

It is called “My Car Walks On Water,” and while it is not the perfect road song, I will say in its defense that it has certainly stood the test of time. I first tried to demo an early version of this song back in 1993. 21 years later, it is still with me, still alive, still changing, still convincing me it is real, a real road song …

I am safe in here
No need to worry any longer
The rain may break the forest’s bones
But my car walks on the water

To equate one’s car with Jesus is the usual unusual nocturnal moxie of the driver driving, alone …

This new iteration is my favorite version. Somehow, with Bones …

My desert island road song is probably “State Trooper,” by Bruce Springsteen, from his dark acoustic masterwork Nebraska. The imagined conversations (or so I perceive them to be) with a State Trooper play out like a narcoleptic head play starring a driver, and no one else …

Maybe you got a kid
Maybe you got a pretty wife
The only thing that I got
Has been botherin’ me my whole life
Mister State Trooper
Please don’t stop me

And the descriptions of the passing nocturnal nightscape are desperately, dirtily perfect …

New Jersey turnpike
Ridin’ on a wet night
Beneath the refinery’s glow
Out where the great black rivers flow

My first “proper” attempt (meaning, my first published and recorded attempt) at the perfect road song was a cut called “The Drive Goes On” from my debut album Preacher Boy & The Natural Blues:

The rearview mirror shines back my red eyes
And the yawns come on, just before sunrise
I keep my eyes open, cuz accidents happen
My left leg is asleep and the right one’s nappin’

It was not perfect either, but to this day, some 20 years later, I hear the song, and I remember exactly where I was driving on that dark mountain night …

 The Drive Goes On (stream)


“My Car Walks On Water” is altogether a different kind of narrative animal; more compressed, bluesier, a broader reconciliation of the simple (It’s rainin’ hard, and I can’t see) and the strange (The rain my soak time’s swingin’ braids).

But is it, “The Perfect Road Song?”

No, it is not.

But it is one more humble and deeply felt contribution to a growing canon of songs that collectively represents our search for harmonic Americana Nirvana.


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