MUSIC REVIEW: Bruce Springsteen
|We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions Columbia |
Music •••• Sound •••½ DualDisc Extras ••••
The group that accompanies him isn't the E Street Band but could rather be dubbed the Bleecker Street Band. They're mostly New York musicians - a banjo player, an accordionist, two fiddlers, several horn players and background singers - with whom Springsteen has attempted to recreate the sound and feel of an old-time folk jamboree. His wife Patti is on hand, as are latter-day E Streeter Soozie Tyrell and trombonist Richie "La Bamba" Rosenberg, who you may remember from Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.
The vibe of The Seeger Sessions - a return to roots, with music made on acoustic instruments and with a choir of friends and family singing along - is similar to that of Neil Young's recent work. Coincidence? Hardly. Our society is in dire need of a return to community, common sense, and convictions. The unspoken message of both Bruce's and Neil's recent work is: Hang up the cellphone and start connecting with one another for real.
What's especially enjoyable about the album is the organic interplay of musicians running through a peck of songs from the folk canon so spontaneously and unselfconsciously, creating magic on the fly. Springsteen and crew dig into the man-vs.-machine tall tale of "John Henry," the sorrowful antiwar message of "Mrs. McGrath" ("All foreign wars, I do proclaim / Live on blood and a mother's pain"), and the workers' sing-along "Erie Canal." Springsteen also shows a surprising knack for spirituals, such as in "Jacob's Ladder" and a solemn, prayerful "We Shall Overcome." All in all, it's another gutsy, well-timed gesture by our most masterful active singer, songwriter, and (now) interpreter.
One technical note: The DVD side of the DualDisc does not offer a surround mix of the album. However, the documentary - which includes performance footage of the sessions - has been mixed in both stereo and 5.1. You also get two bonus audio tracks, "Buffalo Gals" and "How Can I Keep from Singing."