Even though Bruce Springsteen's last album is only seven months old — he's already promising his latest collection is “coming soon.” Springsteen, who's been known to easily span half a decade between new projects, has quickened his pace over the past decade, or so.
On Thursday night (May 13th), while making his virtual acceptance speech for the 2021 Woody Guthrie Prize, “The Boss” explained, “California was an enormous influence on some of my most topical writing through my '90s, 2000's and even now. We have a record coming out soon that’s set largely in the West.” The still-unannounced set marks Springsteen's first return to a Western motif since 2019's Western Stars.
Billboard reported the streaming event from his Stone Hill Farms barn in Colts Neck, New Jersey was for members of the Woody Guthrie Center that honored him, with the live stream produced in conjunction with the Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music.
Springsteen performed four songs — two of Guthrie's “Tom Joad” and “Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos),” along with two of his own — “Across The Border” and “The Ghost Of Tom Joad.”
In accepting the award, Springsteen told Woody Guthrie's daughter, Nora Guthrie, “I always said that Bob Dylan was the father of my country. But your father was the grandfather of my country. His was the first music where I found a reflection of America that I believed to be true. Where I believed that the veils had been pulled off, and that what I was seeing was the real country that I live in.”
Springsteen spoke about first absorbing Guthrie's music at the end of the 1970's, which inspired and informed both 1982's Nebraska collection and it's follow-up, 1984's Born In The U.S.A.: “Without (Woody's) influence coming at that exact moment, when I was 30 years old. . . I don't know if I would ever have gotten there — if I would have ever found that kind of hope, that kind of dedication to putting your work into some form of action.”
Following the 2019 premiere of the Western Stars movie at the Toronto International Film Festival, Bruce Springsteen revealed what the West represented to him in artistic terms: “I grew up in the '50s and so, the Western was king. And I wanted my music to be more than just local. So, when I was writing I thought about how to draw from all different parts of the country. Right from Darkness On The Edge Of Town, I started to set songs in Utah or in the Southwest somewhere. And there's just something just iconically Western; y'know, whether it was Henry Fonda or Gary Cooper — those were all your icons of adulthood and manhood, y'know, when you were growing up. So, it all just naturally just seeps into your bones.”