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New Bruce Springsteen Song, ‘Rocky Ground,’ Streaming Today

Bruce Springsteen
Mike Coppola / Getty Images

The ninth song from Bruce Springsteen‘s forthcoming album, ‘Wrecking Ball,’ is streaming today, and only today, over at NPR Music. While ‘Rocky Ground’ has a handful of elements that seem unusual and could potentially alienate many longtime fans, after a few listens its beauty sinks in, and is possibly his most powerful track since ‘My City Of Ruins’ closed out 2002′s ‘The Rising.’

Opening with a sample of famed archivist Alan Lomax’s 1942 field recording of ‘I’m A Soldier in the Army of the Lord’ by the Church of God in Christ Congregation, ‘Rocky Ground’ moves onto a martial drum loop and gospel singer Michelle Moore singing, “We’ve been traveling over rocky ground, rocky ground.’  In another musical departure from Springsteen’s traditional sound, mournful horns form the instrumental break.

The lyrics use Biblical imagery to remind us that faith will help get us through the toughest of times. The title references Mark 4:5, “Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil.”

Springsteen’s Catholic upbringing has often featured prominently in his work, including ‘Adam Raised A Cain,’ ‘Pink Cadillac’ and ‘The Rising.’ Indeed, when he played the never-released ‘If I Was the Priest’ for John Hammond at his 1972 Columbia audition, the legendary A&R man said, “You went to Catholic school, didn’t you?” The former St. Rose of Lima of Freehold student couldn’t deny it.

Three minutes into ‘Rocky Ground,’ Springsteen turns over the lead vocals to Moore, who contributes a 16-bar rap about the damage done to the soul as things get worse. “You try to sleep, you toss and turn, the bottom’s dropping out / Where you once had faith now there’s only doubt / You pray for guidance, only silence now meets your prayers / The morning breaks, you awake but no one’s there.” As she finishes, the Victorious Gospel Choir, of which Moore is a member, picks up the refrain and carries it through to the end of the song.

Tomorrow’s song from ‘Wrecking Ball’ that will be streamed is the similarly gospel-infused ‘Land of Hope and Dreams,’ which was the regular closing number of Springsteen shows from 1999-2003.

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