Taken from the album "The Ghost of Tom Joad" (Columbia, 1995)
I have fallen in love with this track two times. The first time, or first love if you will, was one of the first times I heard The Ghost of Tom Joad album. That album is sparse and quiet, in fact so sparse and hushed that I would say that "Youngstown" is a real uptempo song. In reality it isn't. What drew me in about the song were the haunting steelguitar tones and the subtle but effective keyboards. Like all the other songs on the album, it's an folk song in the classical sense. Springsteen was inspired by the great depression and the book Grapes of Wrath, and wrote a bunch of story-songs that became the album. The first real solo-Springsteen recording since 1982's Nebraska. As I said, the track stands out on the album. The reason for that is uncertain. In my mind it's because it's the best song on the album, but it could also be that it just feels a little different from the other songs because of the instrumentation. The song and the album are both very lyric-driven, but not in the typical Springsteen universe - it's more traditional folk/story-songs.
"Here in north east Ohio
Back in eighteen-o-three
James and Danny Heaton
Found the ore that was linin' yellow creek
They built a blast furnace
Here along the shore
And they made the cannon balls
That helped the union win the war"
So there the story starts, in a furnace making cannon balls for the union back in the days of the American Civil War. The next verse is about coming home from Vietnam. The third verse is about fighting in World War II and sending your kids to Korea and Vietnam. There are two things that stays the same in this song - there always is a war, and the weapons are coming from the hands of the working men in furnaces and mills that have to send their sons of to fight in these wars. A very touching story, and very anti-war. It's a protest song if you will.
"From the Monongaleh valley
To the Mesabi iron range
To the coal mines of Appalacchia
The story's always the same
Seven-hundred tons of metal a day
Now sir you tell me the world's changed
Once I made you rich enough
Rich enough to forget my name"
The second time I fell in love with the song was the first time I saw the Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band Live From New York City dvd. There the song are transformed from a quiet haunting folk song to a raging angry folkrock song with a haunting angry guitar solo courtesy of the great Nils Lofgren. The song is taken to another place, but it's still just as touching. That's what makes a song great.
"When I die I don't want no part of heaven
I would not do heavens work well
I pray the devil comes and takes me
To stand in the fiery furnaces of hell"
|Bruce Springsteen :: Youngstown|
|Found at skreemr.com|