Thursday, December 10, 2015

Atlantic City

While a lot of the A.V. Club Undercover covers (awkward) are not great (too many bearded hipsters slowing the fuck down in ironic takes of 80s' hits) they have some really good moments. It took a couple of listens for this to grow on me, but I think I really like it now.

It's a classic Bruce Springsteen track off Nebraska, an album I'm saving for when I hit rock bottom. The original is obviously amazing - listen to the echoes in the chorus - but I love this cover because 1) no harmonica, and 2) you can really tell Justin Townes Earle knows what desperation feels like, first-hand. (A quick look through his Wikipedia page confirms the usual - rough childhood, drug addiction, recent sobriety.) He kind of looks like those Oklahoma dust bowl farmers in Dorothea Lange's pictures - something about the sharp lines and planes of his face, too worn out for thirty three. "Everything dies, baby that's a fact..."

In his hands, there's a sweetness to the inevitable darkness present in the song. Springsteen's chorus is hollowed out and pained, but JTE gives the words an inflection of hope, even as he makes it clear that the ending for his narrator is the same as Springsteen's. Springsteen knows that she's not meeting him in Atlantic City - and JTE knows it too, but he's bent on asking her just one more time anyway.