Bruce Springsteen

We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

It’s a natural: Bruce Springsteen, the working-man’s rock star, meets Pete Seeger, American folk-music icon. Recorded unrehearsed at Springsteen’s New Jersey farm, The Seeger Sessions captures the Boss and friends—on guitar, fiddle, piano, upright bass, accordion, washboard, tuba, trombone, banjo and mandolin—playing with joy, passion and apparently plenty of lubrication. At one point, Springsteen asks, “Any else need another beer? Let’s loosen up on these vocals.” While the party atmosphere makes it impossible not to get caught up in the music, it also risks undermining the political intensity of the original songs. On the other hand, the gospelly “O Mary, Don’t You Weep” becomes a rousing call to arms, the entire cast belting out the vocals, painfully punctuated by the high hat that sounds eerily like a cracking bull whip, and the title tune is solemn and stirring, as is the gorgeous “Shenandoah.” A “dualdisk,” the Seeger Sessions includes a remarkable DVD of the recording. It shows bandleader Springsteen not only calling out solos and key changes but thoughtfully discussing in quiet interviews the songs and the importance of “recontextualizing” the music.