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Album Review



"Rumble Doll"


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OK, let's get it over with: Yes, Bruce Springsteen's influence is all over his wife's long-delayed debut album, both directly--he plays guitar and keyboards on the two songs he co-produced--and indirectly--no one could have written an album full of material like this without listening to "Nebraska" and "Tunnel of Love" a couple of dozen times.

That said, so what? Scialfa worked in Springsteen's band for a decade, and it's only natural for an artist to be shaped by her milieu. Besides, "Rumble Doll" is rich with other influences, from the Ronettes to Mink DeVille to, most of all, producer Mike Campbell of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers, whose broad strokes and bold arrangements give the record an ambitious air.

Scialfa's singing is at times tentative, but her writing unabashedly lays bare the hopes and dreams of everyday existence in the workaday world. It's an old-fashioned, traditional-rock world, populated by "girls" and "boys" and "babys"--no women or men here, even though Scialfa is near 40--and ruled by major chords. Ultimately, "Rumble Doll" displays little of the derring-do with which important artists challenge listeners, but what it does dare to do it does quite well.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent).

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