Saturday, May 06, 2006

Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (Columbia, 2006)

Like all great Americana music, the band lurches in and out of control like a Salvation Army ensemble being mashed-up with a Tom Waits band. Springsteen's voice has gotten much more rough and populist - how did that Jersey boy get that Okie twang in his voice anyway? The Seeger songs are timeless and really shine through: "John Henry" is the story of the legendary steel-drivin' man and builds a ferocious momentum as does the gospel drenched "Mary Don't You Weep." A Nebraska-like sense of desolation and lost hope fills the ballads "Jacob's Ladder" and "My Oklahoma Home." The only thing that even approaches a mis-step is the over the top arrangement that pushes "Shenandoah" into maudlin territory. Still, with a hard fought and triumphant version of "We Shall Overcome" and a wry "Froggy Went A-Courtin," the album wraps up in grand style. This is a really fine example of how a tribute album should be done. Not a slavish recreation of the original music or a complete overhaul, but a loving re-examination of great traditional music.

Send comments to: Tim