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There’s the Tom Jones we all try to imitate on karaoke night. Then there’s the Tom Jones who took on Bruce Springsteen’s darkest ballad. You need to know both.

The Tom Jones who stepped onto the Grammy stage in agelessly prime form, going toe-to-toe with Jessie J on “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,'” was the Tom Jones everybody knows: the big-lunged belter of “It’s Not Unusual,” “She’s A Lady,” and “Delilah.” And we love that side of Tom Jones. But over the last few years he’s been revealing and reveling in his gospel, folk, country, and R&B roots with a back-to-basics approach on par with Johnny Cash’s American Recordings. And this stripped-down, more introspective phase of Tom Jones’ career all started with a cover of a particularly dark and obscure Bruce Springsteen song.

Somewhere between a short story and a film treatment, “The Hitter” is the first-person confessional of a troubled boxer, the roots of his violent life, and an attempt at reconciliation (and maybe even redemption). Bruce’s version is a spare, reflective folk ballad, not so much sung as mumbled. But Tom Jones turns it into a smoldering soul number, complete with weeping horns ripped straight from an Otis Redding ballad. Jones makes “The Hitter” feel less like a lament and more like a matter of life and death. By the time it’s done, you’ll wonder if, like the song’s protagonist, you can get up at all. But don’t worry. We know you can.

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