Last year Bruce Springsteen gathered a group of little known but very accomplished musicians together to make a collection of songs associated with the legendary folk singer/activist Pete Seeger. The resultant CD…a delightfully freewheeling, spirited, and ramshackle acoustic affair…was We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.
Springsteen took a version of the big band (now dubbed The Sessions Band)…some 17 strong including E Street Band members singer/guitarist Patti Scialfa (Mrs. Springsteen) and violinist Soozie Tyrell…on the road and this 2-disc set was recorded last November in Ireland (before a very enthusiastic audience) during the process (a 3-disc version of the set features a DVD of performances of all 23 songs.)
The playing on this collection is tighter than it was on the studio album, a joyful noise indeed. The 23-track set includes most of the songs from We Shall Overcome along with new arrangements of a number of Springsteen songs and a couple of venerated gospel songs.
The disc opens with a lively re-interpretation of Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” (from his classic album Nebraska; “Highway Patrolman”, from the same album, is featured later on the disc to fine effect) followed by three potent performances of Seeger Session songs (the rollicking “Old Dan Tucker”, the soulful anthem “Eyes on the Prize” featuring vocals by Mark Anthony Thompson, and a boisterous romp through “Jesse James”.)
Springsteen shares the mike with some of the band members…including Thompson and Scialfa…for a lovely version of his own “Further On (Up the Road)” (originally recorded on The Rising.) Springteen, Thompson, and Scialfa trade off verses on a soft, elegant version of “When the Saints Go Marching In”
Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind” (from Lucky Town) is recast as a stately waltz featuring a duet between Springsteen and Scialfa.
Songs from the Seeger Sessions all shine including energetic and engaging takes on “Mary Don’t You Weep”, “My Oklahoma Home” (which includes great solos by Tyrell, banjo player Greg Liszt, and the horn section and a fun call and response with the audience), “Jacob’s Ladder”, “Mrs. McGrath”, “Pay Me My Money Down”, and “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live” (featuring Bruce’s Hurricane Katrina inspired additional lyrics.)
The Springsteen songbook is explored with interesting new versions of tunes such as: a fine mid-tempo take on “Long Time Comin’” (originally from Devils and Dust), a wonderful, totally rockin’ “Open All Night” (from Nebraska), a heartfelt lope through “Growin’ Up” (from Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ), the jaunty, Irish-flavored “American Land” (from the special edition of We Shall Overcome), and a playful romp through “Blinded by the Light (also from Greetings.)
Springsteen, the band, and the singers work up a righteous gospel fire with their take on “This Little Light of Mine” before finishing the disc with the tropical lilt of “Love of the Common People” and a delicate, moving version of “We Shall Overcome.”
Live in Dublin is a grand album…fun, frisky, and full of life. Bruce is in fine voice and having a great time and the crack band is downright amazing. What more could you ask?