Roadside Graves :: Downbound Train (Bruce Springsteen)

Roadside Graves cover “Downbound Train” on the upcoming  Springsteen tribute compilation, Long Distance Salvation. Below, I asked the Graves’ John Gleason to shed some light on the track selection, the band’s reimagination of it and his relationship with the Springsteen’s music. Gleason, in his own words, below. – AD

We were originally asked to cover “Open all Night” for this benefit tribute to Nebraska and I dreaded the idea simply because Son Volt had already done a fine reworking of it, but luckily   a week later we were told our song was switched to “Downbound Train”; a track on Born in the USA, but originally part of the Nebraska demos. As an album, Nebraska is slightly abused in certain musical circles, so it was refreshing to work with “Downbound Train”.

I immediately knew I had to tinker with the lyrics a bit, the last verse has always bothered me because I couldn’t see the character working at a car wash and then swinging a “sledge hammer on a railroad gang”. I prefer leaving the character after the third verse, dreamlike running to his empty house. This is one hell of a song and being from NJ it’s almost sinful to mess with Bruce, but I feel like we did it well and found some room to make the song our own without ruining or playing it too similar to the original.

I find it difficult to understand someone who doesn’t like Springsteen, I met my wife in Atlantic City and was quite unsure of how the evening would play out until she bought me a beer and asked me what my favorite Springsteen record was. I lied and said Nebraska (it’s really Tunnel of Love). Bruce has songs that he doesn’t put on records that are better than anything I’ll ever write, example: “Shut Out the Lights” (also included on this tribute). His songs are epic, we added the “You said you’d wait for me” ending because we love epic, wanted to continue the desperation and sadness of the narrator, and, well, we were trying to zone in on some 80’s catchiness, “woah oh”. We entrusted Johnny (our “keyboarder” and early Genesis fanatic) with recording the track, so each time a new wild, swirling synth part appears I have to smile, it’s so Johnny.

If anyone ever is visionary enough, brave enough, can look past the production enough to release a tribute to the Tunnel of Love record please get in touch, we’re waiting eagerly. When I was a kid I thought Bruce sang, “You were crying Clarence, you were so alone”. I hope Bruce hears this someday. — John Gleason, Roadside Graves

MP3: Roadside Graves :: Downbound Train (Bruce Springsteen)

17 thoughts on “Roadside Graves :: Downbound Train (Bruce Springsteen)

  1. This is a complete disgrace to a great Bruce song. I know John Gleason’s voice is typically off a bit, but seriously, he has never sounded worse.

    Also, when you are doing a tribute to one of the greatest artists of all time, it is NOT the time to make it about you and your opinions. Changing the lyrics was a bad idea and John should have resisted that temptation.

    Sorry. Not good. Not good at all. Heading back to the original so I can get this version out of my head.

  2. This is pretty great!! I really like it. I saw that Strand of Oaks AND Adam Arcuragi have tracks on this album as well? Dying to hear those…. when when when will it be available?

  3. when you are doing a tribute to one of the greatest artists of all time, it is NOT the time to make it about you and your opinions.

    I don’t like this version much either, but I can’t believe that Springsteen – one of America’s great originals – would want to hear merely a slavish imitation of himself. Gleason obviously cares a lot about the song; if he’s going to perform it, why shouldn’t he make it his own?

  4. awesome stuff — took a classic original and updated it, made it personal and reinvented it without losing the ties to the original. love the synths, which bring the synths on the original to the foreground

  5. Nice job gentlemen. I echo John’s sentiments about Tunnel of Love a hundred fold. FANTASTIC record, shitty 80’s production. If no one has the balls to do it, you guys should just remake it yourselves. Bruce himself did some interesting reinterpretations of many of those songs on the solo Devils and Dust tour.

  6. Sorry, but this is terrible. I like that Bruce is getting some indie cred these days, but no one has yet to come close to the originals. No one.

  7. I’ve been a big fan of Roadside Graves for quite some time, and bought just about all of their CDs. Live Springsteen as well.
    Sooo.. I hate the synth. Hate it.
    Like commented above, I enjoy covers when the band puts some thought into it, and puts a different spin or interpretation on it. But this just doesn’t do it for me.
    Regards, Dave.

  8. Damn, lots of negative reactions. I actually dog this version. Takes the best part of the original and expands it. Narratively its an interesting choice. The synths pay homage to The Boss’ 80’s sound as well as one of his contempoeary influences, Suicide. I’m into it. I’d love to hear a Graves cover of Tunnel of Love. It’d be just as rad as CVB’s Tusk cover album.

  9. Kurt Vile covered this song on his recent EP. It’s a pretty straight-forward rocking cover; I though it was a curious inclusion on the EP — which is otherwise a quieter affair — until I saw him play it live and wail like a madman through an epic closing guitar solo. Worth checking out.

  10. Love this band. Not a fan of the synths/prog on record or live. Solid version of the tune till the synth jam.

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