Friday, July 21, 2017

Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome - the Seeger Sessions

On the surface, Springsteen seems like the perfect person to interpret songs made famous by Pete Seeger, and I do like this record overall, although sometimes it almost seems like he's trying to hard or something. He has a strong group of musicians accompanying him here and maybe almost too good at times - there's not really any of the ragged edge that Seeger, and the originals, had.

That said, it is still a fun project overall, especially songs like the New Orleans flavored take on "Jesse James" and "O Mary Don't You Weep", the fiddle-driven "John Henry", the Tom Waits-ian version of "Erie Canal", a traditional folk of "My Oklahoma Home" (although he tries a bit to hard to make his Jersey accent sound Southern), the melancholy ballad "Eye on the Prize", the uptempo "Pay Me My Money Down" and even the potentially super-silly "Froggie Went A-Courtin'" worked out in its simplistic arrangement.

When he gets a little too serious, as in "Mrs. McGrath", it gets a little bogged down, despite the attempt at a bit of an Irish jig here'n'there. Same with the gospel number "Jacob's Ladder", the ponderous "Shenandoah" and even the number that started the concept, "We Shall Overcome". Things do get a little same-y after a while too, as he encourages everyone to join in and everybody to take solos - sounds like this would be fun live, but on record is gets repetitive.

Obviously, Americana music has made a big resurgence over the last decade or so, with lots of big stars reinterpreting classic numbers, with varied success. I dug Neil Young's Americana a bit more than this one due to its rawness and Young's choices, but this is still worthwhile, if just for the Zydeco-driven sounds behind Bruce.