Kurt Vile’s new album (watch my moves) features 14 original songs and one surprise cover: Bruce Springsteen’s “Wages Of Sin.” To say this isn’t an oft-covered song is putting it mildly; the only prior version SecondHandSongs lists is the one by Damien Jurado and Rosie Thomas that ranked high on our Best Springsteen Covers Ever list, from the tribute album Badlands – A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska.
“Wages of Sin” wasn’t on Nebraska, though. It was cut six months before the album came out, but was actually under consideration for Born in the USA. When it finally appeared on Bruce’s 1998 box set Tracks, he told Billboard, “[‘Wages of Sin’] was a real find. I forgot I wrote it. It may have been one of those songs that cut close to the bone at the time, so i put it to the side. It was actually cut for Born In The USA. What happens is very often you have your own personal sensitivities about a particular piece of music or you may be uncomfortable with the way you’ve sung or what the song is about and you steer away from that a little bit, and I think that’s what happened on that one.”
Kurt’s version makes it sound like a lost classic though, hazy and haunted, like it could have come from Nebraska – if Nebraska more weird electric-guitar wig-outs, that is. Vile knowing the classic-rock deep cuts should surprise no one; after all, he used to be in The War on Drugs, who have been covering Dylan’s also-rarely-covered “Born in Time” of late.