Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen are both planning new albums for 2006 – and each will likely launch a tour as well. Dylan has just begun work on his thirty-first studio disc, and Springsteen is wrapping up his first-ever CD of cover songs, focusing on music from the repertoire of folk icon Pete Seeger.
On January 31st, Dylan arrived at the Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie, New York, with his current touring band. For the next four days, according to Bardavon's executive director, Chris Silva, the band rehearsed new material. "It was experimental, all kinds of different licks," Silva told the Poughkeepsie Journal. "They would get into one thing, and they would go over it and over it. Then they would change gears."
Dylan – whose first announced tour date of 2006 is a performance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in late April – then moved the operation to Manhattan to lay down his new tunes. His previous studio album, 2001's acclaimed Love and Theft, was also cut in New York, in just two and a half weeks at Sony Music Studios, with Dylan producing under the name Jack Frost. Meanwhile, sources familiar with the Springsteen project say that he has nearly completed his covers album, which has the working title The Seeger Sessions and will include both Seeger-penned tunes and American standards the folk patriarch helped popularize. Seeger, 86, is the author of folk classics such as "If I Had a Hammer" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"
One source says that this project began in 1998, when Springsteen recorded the protest anthem "We Shall Overcome" for the Seeger tribute album Where Have All the Flowers Gone? There have been two recording sessions since, and Springsteen is likely to hit the studio once more.
On the new disc, Springsteen is backed by a small group featuring his wife, Patti Scialfa, E Street Band violinist Soozie Tyrell and other New Jersey musicians playing largely traditional folk instruments like mandolin and banjo. "The Tom Joad tour [from 1995 to 1997] helped me realize I like to play a lot of different ways," Springsteen told Rolling Stone last year. "I love playing with the E Street Band, I love playing by myself, and at some point I'll probably stumble onto something that might work for a small band." The album is due out in May, and Springsteen is planning to tour this spring, backed by the musicians who recorded the disc.
This story is from the March 9th, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone.