THIS is rather a good time to be a fan of Bruce Springsteen. In quick succession we’ve had his riveting memoir, Born to Run; a Netflix special about his long-running, one-man Broadway show; a well-received solo album, Western Stars, and a film adaptation of its songs; a new trove of live recordings of the Boss; a hit film inspired by his music, Blinded by the Light; and, tantalisingly, the promise of a Springsteen album with the E Street Band, and a tour.

Then there’s this: two Roaming Roots revues in Celtic Connections later this month, both paying tribute to Springsteen on the occasion of his 70th birthday.

It's a tribute to both Springsteen's enduring power as a songwriter and to the popularity of Roaming Roots that the first night, at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, sold out quickly. Some 1,500 tickets were snapped up within the first hour. A second night had to be added, at the Old Fruitmarket.

The Roaming Roots shows – curated, as ever, by Roddy Hart and his band, The Lonesome Fire – will feature an array of first-class musicians, including Lisa Hannigan, Ryan Bingham, Craig Finn (the singer with the Brooklyn rock group, The Hold Steady), and The Rails, a folk-rock duo consisting of Kami Thompson (daughter of Richard and Linda) and James Walborne, who plays guitar with The Pogues and the Pretenders. Karine Polwart, fresh from the success of her Scottish Songbook album, Glasgow-born Phil Campbell, from The Temperance Movement, and California-based Jonathan Wilson are also taking part.

Together, they’ll be covering key moments and personal favourites from Springsteen’s formidable back-catalogue, an array of songs that winds across 19 studio albums released between 1973 and 2019, via such landmark titles as Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Nebraska, Born in the USA, The Ghost of Tom Joad, The Rising, and last year’s Western Stars.

In his near-50-year career Springsteen has also had eleven US No.1 albums, and has won 20 Grammy awards, two Golden Globes, an Oscar, a Tony and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

For a taster of what to expect at the Roaming Roots revues, have a look at YouTube, where you’ll find Hart doing a version of Springsteen’s Tougher Than the Rest, and a couple of videos from previous Roaming Roots shows: Hart and the Lonesome Fire doing Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, in 2016, and the revue cast performing Atlantic City at a soundcheck in 2013.

In its time Roaming Roots has ranged far and wide. Previous themes have included the Women of Song, the late Tom Petty, pop’s rich vein of harmony singing, the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, the timeless music of Laurel Canyon, and a tribute to late Levon Helm, drummer with The Band.

The revues unfailingly attract a high calibre of musician, too: Kris Kristofferson, even, one year. Small wonder that one Roaming Roots enthusiast, writing on Twitter, should say of it: “Love it. The annual musical equivalent of the Champions League final”.

Needless to say, from Hart to Polwart and Wilson, all the artists taking part in the 2020 revues concerts are diehard Springsteen fans.

Lisa Hannigan has covered, with Richie Egan, Springsteen’s I’m On Fire; Craig Finn has spoken of meeting Springsteen, his biggest musical hero. “Meeting your heroes”, he said, “there’s such an opportunity for them to disappoint you because they can’t live up to all the things that you put on them. The good news is that if your hero is Bruce Springsteen, he doesn’t disappoint”.

Hart himself, in an interview on the Penny Black Music site in 2013, said that, together with Bob Dylan, Springsteen was one of the artists he grew up with.

“My dad liked Springsteen, but I got into him through a friend when I was eighteen or nineteen – I just became obsessed! He was such an exciting artist to discover. It was actually before – and I’m not trying to claim that I was into him before everyone was into him – but there seems to be a huge thing for Springsteen at the moment, and when I was into him he was quite uncool: people weren’t talking about him, he was associated with Dancing in the Dark and Born in the USA. I found my way back to his early records and became totally obsessed with the stuff”.

All of which leads to the question, how are the songs for the two Springsteen shows chosen?

“Roaming Roots has been a constantly evolving show”, says Hart. “We started in 2013 to give a platform to a lot of emerging artists and put them in front of a bigger audience.

“The way we did that initially was to offer a kind of theme every year that would in draw an audience that would then get to hear what these artists are about as artists, and their original songs, as well as songs relating to the theme.

“When we started out we were in constant dialogue with these artists about which song they wanted to do. Sometimes I would drive the agenda with what I thought would work, and sometimes the artists would come back.

“With someone like Springsteen, we’re now at the stage where the artists are totally on board. They buy into the idea of Roaming Roots, which is just fantastic. They know now when I explain to them that this is a two-way conversation that we should have.

“It’s a bit of both, really. I have to think about the dynamic of the night, about what the audience’s expectations will be. I also have to think about which singers might suit which songs.

“Finally, I have to check what the artists themselves want to do.

“When I started the process recently, some of the artists responded to suggestions I made by saying,‘That’s fine – whatever you want’. Someone else came back and said, ‘Well, actually, I’m a fan of this particular Springsteen song'."

It seems the formula consists of keeping everyone happy – including the hardcore Springsteen fans in the audience.

“Well”, acknowledges Hart, “I’m a hardcore fan, so I know how difficult-to-please we are. There’s an element of not wanting to disappoint the audience, but also making sure that those people who only have a ‘greatest hits’, cursory-level knowledge of Springsteen aren’t disappointed, that we don’t go too niche, almost.

“So you want to include the big songs but you also want to include the odd curveball, just in the same way that Springsteen would walk out on stage for three hours and just say, as he would say in one of his songs, ‘I’m going to stand back and let it all be’ – I’m going to curate this night of amazing music for you.

“But the bottom line is, the songs are so phenomenal that you just can’t go wrong”.

Hart certainly has a lot of time for Western Stars, Springsteen's latest album.

Just last month, it was one of his Records of the Year on his BBC Scotland radio show. “You see – class really is permanent”, he told his listeners after playing the album’s closing track. The album, he added, was a “stellar effort” and “uniformly great …with some really touching lyrics”.

"Western Stars," he says now, “is very much a love letter to his Sixties influences, people like Glen Campbell. I love it.

“I think that’s actually the difficulty. A lot of fans are entrenched in the early Springsteen output, especially the Seventies and the early Eighties. Every album from that period has at least three or four songs that you think should be there on the night, because he’s such a phenomenal writer. It’s a by-product of his being young and hungry and ambitious that all his best stuff should come in such a creative period.

"But there have been some great things on the Springsteen albums of the last few years, and if we can make it work we’ll try to cover as broad as area as we possibly can.”

Personally, Hart has always been a fan of the album Tracks, a boxset that came out in 1998 with many previously unreleased Springsteen songs and out-takes. “One song, The Promise, is just him, sitting at the piano. That’s long been a big favourite of mine”, he says. “It’s from his Seventies catalogue. I always loved the lesser-known songs in that respect, like Brothers Under the Bridge.

“Even in his Nineties period, there was a song, If I Should Fall Behind, which he latterly took on at gigs with the whole band. You’ll find these absolute gems throughout his career, but for me, the Darkness on the Edge of Town is one of his greatest moments.

“I used to go into Fopp Records [in Glasgow] while I was growing up and just becoming a Bruce fan. The album was always on sale for a fiver, and I would think it was one of the less good Springsteen albums. I used to avoid it all the time; I would go for everything apart from that.

“Eventually I bought it, when I developed a full-blown obsession for him, and I just thought it was the most revelatory album. I loved the songs on it, the songwriting”.

Springsteen seems to have been part of our lives for ever. His first album, Greetings from Ashbury Park, N.J., came out in 1973. And now, a septuagenarian, he has joined a select handful of elite musicians who are still going strong in their eighth decade.

Neil Young and Van Morrison are both 74; Dylan is two years away from his 80th birthday. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood – the Rolling Stones – are all aged between 72 and 78. The Who’s Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend, who play Glasgow’s SSE Hydro in March, are 75 and 74 respectively.

“It’s amazing, actually”, Hart muses. “I was thinking about Springsteen, and Randy Newman [76] and Tom Waits [70], and Leonard Cohen just before he died [in November 2016, at the age of 82]. These guys, and Dylan, obviously, too. There's something in them that has never really faded, that kind of hunger that they have, that we would hope that artists who are emerging now and who will last for the long haul, will still have when they’re in their sixties and seventies.

“You do wonder, who are the big artists that we’re going to be celebrating in thirty years’ time? These guys were cut from a different cloth and I think that’s something that’s totally innate in Springsteen: it’s part of his DNA, he can’t help it. He just has this burning desire to write these songs.

“Neil Young’s new album, Colorado, is great, too. They’re still delivering the goods, and I think that’s a sign of the songwriting gene that is pretty strong”.

Hart has long count of the number of other artists’ songs that he and the Lonesome Fire have had to become word-perfect in because of their involvement in Roaming Roots.

“That’s part of the joy of the job”, he affirms. “You’re living out these fantasies of playing your favourite artists’ music and also discovering new things, especially when the theme is a bit wider and it’s not about one artist.

“The Women of Song theme was a good example. There was a much freer rein and artists are suggesting songs to you and you’re learning songs by artists that you didn’t know. There’s a total joy in that.

“The credit goes to the band, however. They’re so studied about it. We go through the records with a huge attention to detail, because we don’t want to miss anything. We want to make sure we’re representing the songs properly”.

Hart is delighted that there was sufficient demand for two nights of Springsteen. “The demand for the first night was so high that we arranged a second night. The Concert Hall was already booked, so we settled for the Old Fruitmarket, which I think will be magical. It’s a great venue”.

A great venue, featuring a great band, playing some of the Boss's greatest songs. Don't miss it.

Roaming Roots Revue presents Born to Run: 70th Birthday Tribute to Bruce Springsteen; Royal Concert Hall, Jan 26, Old Fruitmarket, Jan 27.