It's not her fault that Patti Scialfa must go through life known as Mrs. Bruce Springsteen. Patti had her own (admittedly lowkey) musical career before she met The Boss, and she's sporadically released solo albums throughout her marriage. And they've been fine, albeit a little too reliant at times on Broooooce iconography and E-Street accompaniment to put them across. But Patti's new album Play It As It Lays, out today, is her first real musical triumph. She gets it exactly right, and she's very much her own woman.
Sure, Bruce is here, and contributes on guitar and harmonica, and fellow E-Streeter Nils Lofgren is around as well, but this music bears little to no resemblance to the music her famous husband has made. It's starker, more blues-based, more reliant on the slide guitar, full of gospel melismas that accompany decidedly secular tales of love and lust, betrayal and deception and doubt. It's the kind of album that could only be made by a 40-something wife and mother who is more interested in the hard work of loving when it's tough than in celebrity and notoriety. It's a fine album; sexy, soulful, literate, and honest. It's Patti doing Dusty in Memphis, and the E/Beale Street mashup works just fine.