.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/612leznowwl-ss500-1350495283.jpg We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions

Bruce Springsteen

We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions

Columbia
Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 4 0
May 19, 2006

Near the end of "Mrs. McGrath," a nineteenth-century Irish ballad that is the third track on Bruce Springsteen's new album, comes a couplet that gives a pretty good sense of why he's putting out an album of traditional folk music right now: "All foreign wars, I do proclaim/Live on blood and a mother's pain." We Shall Overcome — which was recorded live in Springsteen's New Jersey home with a fourteen-piece band, including horns, banjo, fiddles, washboard, organ and accordion — is his most jubilant disc since Born in the U.S.A. and more fun than a tribute to Pete Seeger has any right to be. But as on Born in the U.S.A., seemingly triumphant anthems are paired with lyrics of pain and protest that champion the oppressed and the exploited (not to mention the calamity-prone protagonist of "My Oklahoma Home," whose wife, house and crops get blown away by a tornado, leaving him with nothing but a mortgage).

Springsteen has always mined a deep vein of Americana, from the hot-rod-and-B-movie-obsessed early albums to the Steinbeckian social realism of The Ghost of Tom Joad and last year's Devils and Dust. But with his first-ever album of songs written by other people, it feels like he's turned to the music of our shared past to find a moral compass for a nation that's gone off the rails. The protest anthems "Eyes on the Prize" and "We Shall Overcome" are performed with an understated urgency; the gospel standard "Oh, Mary, Don't You Weep" — which Springsteen sings in a gruff Tom Waits-ish baritone and to which the Seeger Sessions Band gives a Dixieland treatment with Stephane Grappelli-style violin — promises, "Brothers and sisters, don't you cry/There'll be good times by and by."

Springsteen discovered most of these tunes — which also include sea chanteys ("Pay Me My Money Down"), minstrel songs ("Old Dan Tucker") and outlaw ballads ("Jessie James") — on LPs by Seeger. Among the pleasures of this album is rediscovering childhood staples like "Erie Canal" or "John Henry" via Springsteen's craggy, familiar voice — which is as mighty and powerful as the steel-driving man himself.

prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Promiscuous”

    Nelly Furtado with Timbaland | 2006

    This club-oriented single featuring Timbaland, who produced Nelly Furtado's third album, Loose, was Furtado’s sexy return after the Canadian singer's exploration of her Portuguese heritage on Folklore. "In the studio, initially I didn’t know if I could do it, 'cause Timbaland wrote that chorus," Furtado said. "I'm like, 'That's cool, but I don't know if I'm ready to do full-out club.'" The flirty lyrics are a dance between a guy and girl, each knowing they will end up in bed together but still playing the game. "Tim and I called it 'The BlackBerry Song,' she said, "because everything we say in the song you could text-message to somebody."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com