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Devils & Dust

Devils & Dust is the thirteenth studio album by Bruce Springsteen, and his third folk album (after Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad). It was released on April 25, 2005 in Europe and on April 26 in the U.S. It debuted at the top of the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart.

Background

Springsteen was very open about the fact that many of the songs from Devils & Dust date back about a decade (or more).

Springsteen wrote the song "All The Way Home" for Southside Johnny to use in his album Better Days which was released in 1991. The songs "Long Time Comin'" and "The Hitter" were written and performed during Springsteen's solo Ghost of Tom Joad Tour in 1996. "Devils & Dust" is also known to have been written previously, and was featured in soundchecks during The Rising Tour beginning in the summer of 2003 and the following year during the Vote for Change Tour in late 2004. (Springsteen had "Devils & Dust" on his set list for at least one Vote for Change show, but at the last moment decided to perform a 12 string guitar rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner", which he would later release for free through his official website.)

Album themes

The title track is about a soldier in a war, assumed to be an American one who had participated in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq or the subsequent occupation. It could also relate to a Western setting in some way. Most of the tracks are about souls in turmoil. Much of the imagery is taken from the American West as he had previously done in his The Ghost of Tom Joad album, as well as Nebraska. This album also deals with the relationship between mothers and children, which marked a departure for Springsteen who had previously written frequently about his relationship with his father, but little about his mother (who is currently alive and according to Bruce "kicking").

The songs "Reno" and "Long Time Comin'" came as a surprise to many listeners. "Reno" describes in graphic detail an encounter(sex) with a prostitute. "Long Time Comin'" has the word "fuck" in the lyrics. Springsteen explained the two songs by revealing that "Reno" was about a man so in love with his lost wife that his desperation could not be vanquished even by a prostitute ("It wasn't the best I ever had / not even close") and that the expletive in "Long Time Comin'" was not negative but, in fact, a positive affirmation ("I ain't gonna fuck it up this time," referring to raising his new child).

The closing song, "Matamoros Banks", is told in backwards time and explores the thoughts of a dying immigrant crossing the border from Mexico. It seems to continue a story first told in "Across the Border" in The Ghost of Tom Joad.

Marketing

On March 28, 2005, the title track was featured as an exclusive "first listen" on AOLmusic.com. The next day it was released for purchase on the iTunes music store.

The disc was also released in the DualDisc format. This puts the regular album on one side of the disc, and special content, like 5.1 surround sound and videos on the other side of the disc in DVD format. The DVD side of the disk features Springsteen performing and commenting on the writing/creation of "Devils and Dust," "Long Time Comin'," "Reno," "All I'm Thinkin' About," and "Matamoros Banks." Lyrics to the songs accompany the playing of the Surround Sound portion in a karaoke style.

The marketing was successful. It granted Springsteen his seventh number one—and fourth number one debut—on the Billboard album chart, his second for an album containing only previously unreleased content and his first ever without the E Street Band. After the initial release period, however, sales quieted down; as of February 2006 it had attained gold album but not platinum album status in the U.S.

Starbucks had been considered a possible retail outlet for the album, as it had accounted for about a quarter of all sales for the recently successful Ray Charles's Genius Loves Company. Starbucks however declined to sell copies of Springsteen's new album, sparking some headlines. Starbucks rejected the album not only because of the song "Reno" but because of stances that Bruce Springsteen had taken on corporate politics and Springsteen not granting approval for a cobranded disc and promotional deal that prominently featured the Starbucks name. Springsteen's label, Columbia Records, balked when the idea was floated, citing the blue-collar champion's well-known opposition to merchandising his music.

"There were a number of factors involved...[Lyrics] was one of the factors, but not the only reason," Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment, told Reuters.

Springsteen's solo Devils & Dust Tour commenced with the release of the album.

Awards

Springsteen received five Grammy Award nominations for this work, three for the song "Devils & Dust", Song of the Year, Best Rock Song, and Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance, and two for the album as a whole, Best Contemporary Folk Album and Best Long Form Music Video. His sole award came for Best Solo Rock Vocal, an award he garnered in previous years for "Code of Silence" and "The Rising".

During the February 8, 2006 Grammy telecast, Springsteen gave an impassioned live solo performance of "Devils & Dust", adding on "Bring 'em home" at the finish, then immediately turned and left the stage without staying to receive his partial standing ovation. His Grammy appearance was somewhat reminiscent of his performance of "My City of Ruins" during the post-September 11, 2001 America: A Tribute to Heroes telethon.

Track listing

All songs are written by Bruce Springsteen.

  1. "Devils & Dust" – 4:58
  2. "All the Way Home" – 3:38
  3. "Reno" – 4:08
  4. "Long Time Comin'" – 4:17
  5. "Black Cowboys" – 4:08
  6. "Maria's Bed" – 5:35
  7. "Silver Palomino" – 3:22
  8. "Jesus Was an Only Son" – 2:55
  9. "Leah" – 3:32
  10. "The Hitter" – 5:53
  11. "All I'm Thinkin' About" – 4:22
  12. "Matamoros Banks" – 4:20

The songs are all copyrighted in 2005, except "All the Way Home" the copyright of which dates to 1991.

Chart positions

Year Chart Position
2005 Billboard 200 1

Personnel

Samples

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