The seeds for Bruce Springsteen’s new album “Devils & Dust” were sown nearly a decade ago, when the singer-songwriter began his first-ever solo acoustic tour.
“I was so excited after playing on that tour, I’d get off the stage and go write,” Springsteen told The Associated Press about those 1995-96 dates. “Then I put those songs on the shelf for a while, until I had a chance to revisit them.”
The visit is now complete, with a 12-song album due in stores April 26 — Springsteen’s first release of all-new material since his Sept. 11-themed “The Rising” in July 2002. A tour was planned to follow the release, although Springsteen said it was unclear if he would perform alone or with a small band.
Two of the new album’s songs, “The Hitter” and “Long Time Comin’,” were written and performed on “The Ghost of Tom Joad” tour. But not all the material dates back that far; the title track was written around the start of the war in Iraq, Springsteen said.
“It works as a metaphor for all the music underneath it, the individual stories of people wrestling with their demons,” Springsteen said of the title track. “A lot of it is set in the West, in what feels like a rural setting.
“It’s about people working through their confusions, sometimes well and sometimes tragically,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this week.
Springsteen opted to record without the E Street Band for “Devils & Dust.” The core group was Springsteen on guitar and other instruments, producer Brendan O’Brien on bass and drummer Steve Jordan, who had produced last year’s “23rd Street Lullaby” album by Springsteen’s wife, Patti Scialfa.
In keeping with his pattern of recording, the new album is a quieter, more acoustic affair than “The Rising.” Springsteen, 55, has alternated between large-scale rock records followed by more introspective material since 1982’s “Nebraska” was released two years after “The River.”
Pedal steel guitar, harmonica and violin fill in the sparse, rootsy arrangements. Springsteen, who says his vocal range has expanded with age, provides some higher-pitched vocals on the track “All I’m Thinking About.”
Springsteen said the accompanying tour would be an acoustic affair whether he performs alone or with a band, targeting theaters and smaller venues.
“I was actually signed as an acoustic act, and I’ve always enjoyed playing acoustic,” Springsteen said. “Even when I was in a band, back in my early days, I was always writing songs that weren’t meant for the band.”