support from Ballantine IPA
Sharon Van Etten recently covered Bruce Springsteen’s “Drive All Night” for The A.V. Club‘s localized cover series (this time New Jersey is the place of interest, which is near and dear to both artists). Van Etten’s rendition sounds like something stripped straight from a heartbreaking scene in a movie; her higher pitch delivery dances upon each piano note with emotional vocal cracks in the same way Springsteen’s signature rasp does in the original. That said, her rendition is inspired and all her own at the same time. Get tickets to Sharon Van Etten’s show at Union Transfer on June 18th here. Watch it below (and try not to sob too hard).
The stories that have been told over the years about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s early performances in the Philadelphia area are by now, legendary. To fans, Bruce’s early shows at the Main Point (January 1973, February 1974) are stuff that dreams are made of. As amazing as those Main Point shows were, Bruce’s first show ever at the Tower Theater on September 20th, 1974 was a glimpse of the greatness that was actually still to come. In his review of the show, Philadelphia Inquirer music critic Bill Mandel wrote: “Bruce Springsteen and his band produce what is, to my mind, the best rock and roll available today. Period.”
Springsteen again played two shows at the Tower in November 1974, but fans would have to wait 13 months to see him again in Philly. On December 27, 28, 30 and 31, 1975, Bruce and the band took over the Tower for four absolutely stunning shows. It had been a little more than two years since Bruce released The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, and nine months before the release of Born To Run, even though songs like the title track, “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” “She’s The One,” “Jungleland,” and “Backstreets” had become set list staples. Some recordings of those shows have been around for years, however one of the most notable bootleg is the Last Tango In Philly that you can listen to below.
Philadelphia-bred singer-songwriter John Francis has long been an advocate for social justice. Themes of disenfranchisement cropped up across his 2010 album Better Angels, from racial segregation to class stratification (get a refresher course in his Key Studio Session here). More recently, he threw the City of Love Festival to support local hunger charities and launched a PledgeMusic campaign, which seeks to both fund his next album and support the international poverty organization One. So when Francis chooses to cover a Bruce Springsteen song for Veteran’s Day, you know there’s more to it than just playing an iconic song by an iconic artist.
“Born in the U.S.A.” is one of the most misinterpreted songs in rock history; lyrically, the song tells a harrowing tale of the troubles faced by a Vietnam vet upon returning home, but it’s commonly used as a yay-America anthem at sporting events, 4th of July celebrations and even political campaigns. Which completely misses the point, and Springsteen’s original demo (recorded in the style of Nebraska and available on the Tracks box set) makes it much more evident. Francis’ own version takes a similar approach with strings and light acoustic instrumentation.
“I’m releasing the song today, Veteran’s Day, and working with veteran’s agencies locally and nationally to get the song out there,” Francis said via email. “It’s an attempt to bring exposure and shed light on the dire plight of many of our returning veteran’s, and our society’s pervasive blindness toward the most marginalized and vulnerable individuals.”
The songs was recorded in Creative Workshop Studio in Nashville and produced by Ken Coomer (original Wilco drummer, Uncle Tupelo), with Kenny Vaughan on guitar (Lucinda Williams, Ray Lamontagne) and Dave Roe on bass (Johnny Cash, John Mellencamp). Listen to the track below.