The new Bruce Springsteen single, ''Devils & Dust," is a stripped-down acoustic ballad in the vein of his 1995 disc, ''The Ghost of Tom Joad." Although the singer hasn't yet commented on it, the song appears to deal with a crisis of faith experienced by an American soldier in Iraq. It was written around the time when the war in Iraq began but doesn't choose sides other than to reconfirm a poignant, war-is-hell motif.
The song debuted exclusively through AOL Music's First Listen program yesterday. It was incredibly annoying to have an announcer cut in four times to repeat ''AOL Music First Listen" during the playing of the song (even talking over some lyrics), but it was hard to not be touched by Springsteen's sympathetic performance.
''I got my finger on the trigger, but I don't know who to trust/ When I look into your eyes there's just devils and dust," Springsteen sings in the opening line. ''We're a long way from home . . . I got God on my side and I'm just trying to survive/ But if what you do to survive kills the thing you love/ Fear is a powerful thing, it can turn your heart black."
The song builds with a harmonica solo, then some stately strings. It stokes anticipation for the ''Devils & Dust" album, which comes out April 26 in a DualDisc format -- the record on one side and a DVD on the other with live performances of the new songs.