Track Premiere: Gabriel Sullivan Does Springsteen’s “Tom Joad”

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From the back seat of his father’s car to the local skate park to the Giant Sand collective—and now to the BLURT readership.

By Fred Mills

Our admiration here for Tucson’s Gabriel Sullivan is well-documented; we’ve talked about his work with Giant Sand as well as profiled him for his solo work. (Go here to read an early interview with him, and here for a review of his last album, 2012’s None Of This Is Mine.) His new record JVPITER arrives in late November, and earlier this month he unveiled the first single, “Seven Cataracts.” Now we’ve got a new track for you as a preview, and the fact that it’s also one of our favorite-ever tunes makes the song premiere even more special—it’s his haunting cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad”:

Sullivan details how he initially discovered the song, and how he came to cover it:

“Funny to think back on how I found this song. I heard it as performed by Rage Against The Machine before I ever heard the original; I was a 13 year old kid with a skateboard and an Ibanez guitar and I didn’t have a bit of knowledge or interest for songwriters that are now my heroes. After playing the song countless times in the car with my parents, my Dad informed me—with a shake of the head—that this was in fact a Bruce Springsteen cover.

“’The Ghost of Tom Joad’ was a song that I never thought I deserved to cover, one of them ‘untouchable’ tunes—you just don’t play it. But on a gray afternoon in Denmark last year, with no new songs coming to mind, I started playing ‘Tom Joad’ for the Giant Sand boys. They had never heard the song and immediately fell into this trancelike groove. Peter Dombernowsky played the drum set with his hands and added a back beat to the song that I think is what makes it its own. We got it down in two takes and that was that. Some sort of tribal, goth, barren landscape take on what is perhaps my favorite song of all time.”

Sullivan will be doing selected Arizona shows during November; you can get details (as well listen to “Seven Cataracts”) at his official website.

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