Music With a Purpose: A Tribute to Springsteen’s Nebraska

Musicians have a long tradition of giving. Sure, they give to all of us with the music that they share. Yet they also have a penchant for supporting meaningful causes. Over the next few weeks we will highlight several releases that demonstrate this giving spirit.

Long Distance SalvationBruce Springsteen has long supported food banks and hunger charities so it seems only fitting that this tribute to his classic Nebraska album should benefit the cause. Blogger Scott Pingeton apparently thought so, inviting a host of talented musicians to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of the seminal album and raise funds for Project Bread, a Massachusetts organization committed to ending hunger.

The result is an impressive collection of performances billed as Long Distance Salvation. Whether the artists took significant license with the songs or whether they stayed true to the original, every track maintains the austerity of Springsteen’s recording.

Juniper Tar takes on the tough challenge of the classic “Atlantic City” and, damn, if they don’t nail it. They contrast a stark piano with rich harmonies to give the song a somber beauty.

Spirit Family Reunion live up to their name with a feisty “Johnny 99.” A stand-up bass opens the song with a jazzy ramble before a banjo joins in to transform the song into a backwoods Southern tale. Jonah Tolchin, a musician not born when the album was originally released, steps onto the same backwoods porch for his hoe-down take on “State Trooper.”

Joe Pug offers up a quiet acoustic reading of “Highway Patrolman.” His matter of fact acoustic delivery doesn’t hide the emotional undercurrent of the song. Adam Arcuragi’s “Reason to Believe” is slow and measured yet still retains the insistence of Springsteen’s original recording.

I suppose that if you’ve got additional artists ready to participate but you’ve already committed all of the album’s tracks, there are worse things then to throw a few extras. In this case it is an additional take on “Atlantic City” and three outtakes from the Nebraska sessions. Kingsley Flood bring some extra musical tension to “Shut Out the Light” while Joe Fletcher reimagines “Pink Cadillac” as a 1940’s style acoustic country song. An ominous intro sets the stage for Roadside Graves closing take on “Downbound Train.”

Audio Download: Spirit Family Reunion, “Johnny 99″

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See previous editions of Music With a Purpose: Jones Street Station’s Perennials Project, Joey’s Song Volume 2 and Grooving Forward, Volume 1.

About the author:  Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.

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