Track of the Day: 'I’m On Fire' by Town Mountain

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Bruce Springsteen is a natural fit for bluegrass. I realize this may sound sacrilegious to the followers of a man who defined late ’70s and ’80s rock, and who can still fill stadiums for four-hour concerts where thousands of fans scream along to anthems “Thunder Road” and “Born to Run.” But he’s already gone down that path in recent years, flexing his folk muscles in his 2005 album Devil & Dust and his 2006 album of Pete Seeger covers, singing with his natural gritty twang and switching his electric guitar for an acoustic one.

Even the Boss’s earlier music had hints of folk influences. Just listen to “I’m On Fire,” his moody, synthesizer-heavy track off of “Born In The U.S.A.,” where he aches for a woman to cool his desire. If you shed away the ‘80s keyboard sound and emphasize its steady drum beat and folk guitar melody, the song has room in the bluegrass genre. And in today’s bluegrass resurgence (check out how many bluegrass festivals there are around the country right now), I keep turning to one cover, which I admittedly listen to more often than the original. It’s from Town Mountain, a string band based out of Asheville, North Carolina. They dropped the synthesizer, added a banjo, a fiddle, and another singer for harmony, and made a gem:

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