“Highway 29”? “Soul Driver”? “Lift Me Up”? The list of songs alone tells you that Swedish musician Moa Holmsten’s new album of Bruce Springsteen covers, Bruised Arms & Broken Rhythm, isn’t going to be a predictable one.
Yes, there are more famous songs on the album, including “Born to Run,” “Badlands” and “Dancing in the Dark.” But Holmsten obviously had to dig pretty deep to come up with something like “Soul Driver.”
Holmsten, whose background is in heavy metal and avant-garde music, comes up with some radical reinterpretations, approaching “Badlands,” for instance, as a boozy, boisterous singalong, and singing more than half of “Incident on 57th Street” a cappella, before the band dramatically kicks in. She speeds up “State Trooper,” as if you could hear the narrator’s heart racing, yet her “Born to Run” is delicate and dream-like.
In general, her versions are different enough from the originals to make you hear the lyrics in new ways, yet you never feel she’s indulging in weirdness for its own sake.
On her web site, meetmoa.com, she writes that she and her collaborator, Tony Naima, were not diehard Springsteen fans before taking on this project, “but I believe the fact that we are not intense and longtime followers of his work has been essential from the beginning. We could discover new songs and re-discover older ones, and work on them with a unique perspective. We could be brave and courageous, while not letting old emotions or presumed expectations stand in our way.”
She compares the process to falling in love: “Getting to know someone for the first time. The first fumbling steps. A person with a history and a past. The last thing you want is to be told from other people what kind of person he or she is. You want to find out for yourself. To see the side of this person that nobody else has seen. This is why I have consistently refused to read articles, books and interviews with Springsteen. I wanted to find out for myself. My own version of an American icon. Not the typical portrayal of him. And that, in a way, can’t be questioned. This is how his songs spoke to me. Our relationship slowly progressed, and I have now totally fallen in love with him.”
Here are all the songs from the album, via YouTube:
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