Try as I might, Bruce Springsteen’s music has always been somewhat of an impenetrable wall for me. He should resonate more strongly with me. From his workman-like roots to his 80s shlock, right back to the grizzled folk of Devils & Dust, Springsteen’s career trajectory is right in line with what I’m often drawn to outside of the metal bullshit readers of this site would probably associate with me. Yet throughout my admittedly limited experience with Springsteen, only one of his album’s has really stuck with me (Nebraska), and even then only one song really “hits” me where it “hurts”.
My first intention in writing this blog was to choose Justin Townes Earle’s cover of “Atlantic City” played as part of the A.V. Club’s “Undercover” series, and I’ll still do that below. But “Atlantic City” as I now want you to hear it is a more unique take on the Springsteen classic. For “Undercover”, Earle strums frenetically, replacing the original version’s pain-struck backing howls with a heightened pace and added sense of vulnerability and nervousness. Then, right as I was about to publish this blog, someoneDAVEDESYLVIAtold me the video didn’t work.
In seeking out an alternative video-feed of the A.V. Club rendition, I eventually stumbled upon a live cover from March the 10th of this year. In it, Earle, accompanied by Joe Pug and his usual backing band, says—not long after citing alcohol as an influence for the ensuing performance—that if you don’t like Springsteen then you don’t like Woody Guthrie, which means you don’t like songs.
Unlike his performance for A.V. Club, this performance is loose and energetic. Instead of vulnerability, Earle & co. exude their endearment for the song.
If you’re still reading, and I hope you can do so while you listen, there’s only one last point of reference I’d like to make regarding Earle’s decision to cover “Atlantic City”.
Justin Townes Earle is the son of country-rock legend Steve Earle (The Wire fans rejoice). Steve Earle was largely influenced by the incomparable Townes Van Zandt, from whom Justin Townes Earle gets his name. Without Zandt there would be no Earle. Without Earle there would be no Springsteen. Without Springsteen, we wouldn’t have these covers to enjoy. Enjoy the cycle. I certainly am.
And for posterity’s sake, here’s Bruce Springsteen’s original version of the soon, taken from his 1982 release Atlantic City