Music: The New Ghost of Tom Joad

Springsteen's album--minus the E Street Band--revisits his abiding interests with mixed results

The new Bruce Springsteen album, Devils & Dust, begins inside the head of an unhinged grunt in the Iraqi desert and ends 50 minutes later with the disembodied thoughts of an immigrant corpse floating down the Rio Grande. In between, we hear from hookers, ranchers, ghetto dwellers, boxers, train riders, orphans, a Jesus and two Marias. Some of these lives are sung in bits of Spanish, for which the monolingual can safely substitute any English words that evoke soul-aching weariness.

Devoted Springsteen fans will sense immediately where Devils & Dust is headed, largely because the Boss has left his boot prints...