Bruce Springsteen's made a lot of good music in his career, but Nebraska, which was released 31 years ago today, may be his crowning achievement. He took a lot of the bombastic working-class angst we'd come to expect -- and would continue to expect -- from the E Street Band and stripped it down to practically nothing: just him, a guitar, a harmonica, and a 4-track recorder. The result was so startlingly raw and evocative, with the whole album practically bleeding the loneliness and desperation of the characters Springsteen was taking on, that it was unlike anything anyone could've expected.
It was Springsteen's foray into Johnny Cash territory, and it worked flawlessly.
My favorite track off Nebraska is still State Trooper, but the album's "single" -- which wasn't actually released as one -- manages to put everything that's great about the entire effort into three-and-a-half minutes.
Here's Atlantic City.