The news came out this morning that Bruce Springsteen’s long-awaited new solo disc is called Western Stars, and it draws heavy inspiration from the California pop scene of the Seventies, specifically artists like Glen Campbell and Burt Bacharach. “I don’t know if people will hear those influences,” he told Variety in December. “But that was what I had in my mind. It gave me something to hook an album around; it gave me some inspiration to write.”
There’s a big difference between Glen Campbell–like pop songs and country music, but Springsteen has also compared the upcoming album to Tunnel of Love and Devils and Dust. If you take some of those songs and add a banjo, pedal steel or a bit of twang, you’d have something not far from country music. And there’s a long history of country artists drawing inspiration from Bruce Springsteen songs and even covering them. Here’s a recording of Kenny Chesney playing “One Step Up” at Asbury Park’s Stone Pony in 2016.
“I actually put this song on my No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems album in 2002,” he told the crowd, “and got an amazing letter from my friend here in Asbury Park. It was one of the highlights of my life, just so you know. Because of that I’ve decided to do this song, so bear with me. It’s been a while.”
It was just one of two times he’s done the song in concert. The other was the 2013 MusiCares Person of the Year show honoring Bruce Springsteen where he played alongside Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Natalie Maines, Alabama Shakes, Neil Young and many others.
When we finally hear all of Western Stars, it almost certainly won’t sound much like a country record. But there will probably be at least a few songs that the likes of Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw won’t have trouble tackling at some point in the future.