July 2006

Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
Columbia 82876 828667 2
Format: DualDisc
Released: 2006

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****
Image Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

When I read that Bruce Springsteen would be recording a collection of songs made popular by Pete Seeger, my gut-level reaction was, "Oh Lord, why?" Seeger has always seemed to me a musician of meager talent whose purpose in life is to be trotted out for documentaries about the Cold War so he can complain about the blacklist. I had forgotten that Seeger really did help bring many great old folk songs back into circulation.

Any doubts I had about We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions were put to rest as soon as I heard a couple of pre-release tracks on the radio. While Seeger and other folk purists approached songs like "John Henry" and "Erie Canal" with reverence, Springsteen and the band he has assembled play them exuberantly. These were popular tunes in their day, sung on front porches and at church gatherings, barn dances, and, later, protest marches. Springsteen’s arrangements take in several styles of American popular music, including bluegrass, New Orleans jazz, zydeco, and even the Celtic strains that would be adapted and transformed into country music and blues. Springsteen doesn’t enshrine these songs; he breathes life into them and gives them back their joy.

Springsteen recorded The Seeger Sessions in the living room of his farmhouse with a group of musicians he met through the E Street Band’s Soozie Tyrell. Though the CD side is good, the superior PCM stereo mix on the DVD side of this DualDisc brings one a step closer to the music. The DVD side also includes a documentary on the making of the disc (which is in widescreen video and has both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks), and it looks like the musicians had as much fun making this music as you will listening to it.