I have to admit that when I heard that Bruce was making an album of folk song covers my first reaction was that we were in for something along the somber lines of the wondrous
For the most part, Springsteen eschews the political songs associated with Pete Seeger (the anti-war track “Mrs. McGrath” being an exception) in favor of engaging, high-steppin’ versions of some of the folk songs Seeger recorded over the year…including traditional chestnuts such as the classic “John Henry”, the charming “Froggie Went A-Courtin’”, the inspirational “Eyes on the Prize”, “Jesse James”, and the rollicking gospel burner “O Mary Don’t You Weep”.
Springsteen (who brings a playful, almost Tom Waits-like growl to some of the tunes) sounds like he’s having a ball as he leads a crack band of 13 players (on violins, horns, guitars, keyboards, and vocals) through 13 songs associated with Seeger. The only members of the E Street Band involved here are violinist Soozie Terrell (who plays on all cuts) and Patti Scialfa (who sings background vocals on 9 tracks.)
The album was recorded “live” during three one-day sessions with no rehearsals (Bruce can be heard calling out changes and solos throughout the record); they worked out the arrangements as they played and the music sounds vital and all the more compelling for that off-the-cuff energy. The title track was recorded in 1997 for a Seeger tribute album, the others were recorded in 2005 and 2oo6.
This is an enormously entertaining disc that will set your toes to tappin' and your soul to hummin'…or as Bruce himself says in the liner notes, “turn it up, put on your dancin’ and singin’ shoes, and have fun”. ‘Nuff said.