Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” has been misinterpreted many times by casual listeners, politicians and fist-pumping audience members. The rock anthem’s buoyant arrangement, designed for arenas in the 1980s, and the simplicity of the single line chorus, make it easy to overlook the verses that describe the hardships and challenges faced by veterans of the Vietnam War.
There is no chance of that happening with the newly released cover of “Born in the U.S.A.” by Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires. The track is from the upcoming Dead Man’s Town: A Tribute to Born in the U.S.A., which will include more indie artists and lesser known names than you might expect for a Springsteen covers album. Similar to Springsteen’s original demo, Isbell plays the song in a minor key, which instantly changes the mood. With only Isbell’s voice, guitar and Shire’s haunting violin, this “Born in the U.S.A.” is personal and poignant. It’s also as relevant now as it was 30 years ago.