Monday, April 17, 2006

Paid Da Cost to be Da Boss

The new Bruce Springsteen album "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" is largely what its title implies: a disc of Springsteen covering Pete Seeger. It is, however, surprisingly good, no doubt because Bruce recorded it loosely in his barn with a bunch of new blood (a veritable big band consisting of horn section, strings, banjo, and even a gospel choir), recording few takes and leaving in a few mistakes. That's why I've already listened to this album more than I've listened to his last three stiff studio albums. The album's a rollicking, fun good time that even ends with a version of "Froggy Went a Courtin’” and doesn’t play down the politics. Which is a way of saying it makes “The Ghost of Tom Joad” seem even more toothless and dull as concrete in retrospect.

Of course, the album has its recent antecedents. There's a whole lot of Billy Bragg and Wilco's excellent "Mermaid Avenue" reworkings of Woody Guthrie songs, or Steve Earle's bluegrass excursion "The Mountain" (not to mention his earlier collaboration with the Pogues). Also, "The Seeger Sessions" would probably sound good no matter who was singing, especially if it was someone of equal rasp (Dylan, Tom Waits). But hey - I'm glad it's Springsteen, and I'm glad the guy's having fun.

The only downside is that he’s touring massive and impersonal outdoor sheds this summer. Sure, he’ll have a 25-member band, but the guy can do better than this dump.


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