Bruce Springsteen’s new album is a tribute to Pete Seeger and it comes off as an Old-Time Revival jamboree on DVD. We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions is a celebration of Folk and Gospel music and the energy and divinity found pounding in the songs is a exclamation of joy and wonderment that we are alive and in the company of each other.
 

Springsteen Sings Seeger

Not all the songs were written by Seeger, but the
songs are associated with Seeger. You then get a curious blend of
history and honoring as you listen to Springsteen admiring Seeger and
Seeger admiring the original songwriter.

That circle of life and method
of aesthetic repetition and worthy penetration of spirit is what makes
us human and that is the key to the joy captured in the performances.
If you purchase the standalone disk you will see it is in the DualDisc
format. The music is on one side and DVD content — including a 30
minute “making of” the album featurette — is included on the other
along with two bonus songs and a booklet that includes the lyrics.

If you buy the album online via iTunes you will get a digital booklet
with the lyrics and a fine video performance of “O Mary Don’t Your
Weep” with a hippity, raunchy, Zydeco feel.
“Old Dan Tucker” starts of album off with a rollicking lyric lick:

Old Dan Tucker, he’s a fine old man,
Washed his face in a frying pan
Combed his hair with a wagon wheel
Died of a toothache in his heel

With
that, the table is set for fun and gumption and tenderness.
“O May Don’t You Weep” is my favorite song on the album and, curiously
enough, the video is much better than the audible-only version. You a
jauntier piano on the video and that makes the entire song come alive
in a new way.

“John Henry” is another song telling of heartbreak and perseverance as
muscle fights mechanization. When the body wins the greater effort of
blood and sinew in defeat against the future industrialized yaw of
humankind, you cheer.
“Pay Me My Money Down” will resonate with anyone who has worked hard
for a living wants to paid what they are worth not what they earned.
Each song flows into the next so fire up the album and listen to the
whole thing from start to finish to live the history of America in the
ripe fields of your golden imagination.

16 Comments

  1. I’m glad to know of the success of the effort, David, and I am pleased you brought this to our attention. “John Henry” is such a sad song, isn’t it? You described the lesson of it so well.

  2. Anne —
    Yes, “John Henry” is sad. His sledgehammer sings in Springsteen’s voice. There are great lessons of humanity and American effort in that song, too. It makes you think about how far we’ve come as an industrialized nation — but at what human price?

  3. That’s what so great about folk music and protest music. We are reminded of our human side. There isn’t much popular music today that does it the same way. I like it so many Seeger songs are sung in elementary schools. They’re simple to sing but the messages about morality and being are sure strong.

  4. You make a fine point, Anne. We are our folk music. Folk music is history in a vocalized form. That’s why the Smithsonian spent much money memorializing those Folk ballads with Seeger in their four disc series a long time ago.

  5. “Working on our night moves … ”
    My bad.
    That’s Pete Seger, not Bob Seeger. 🙂
    For some reason, I always want to think that Pete Seeger is Bob Seger’s father. But, just in case I lead someone astray, that is not the case.
    As Scott Spaling at the Seger File writes:

    You should definitely not corner me in the lunchroom and cheerfully volunteer that “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” is one of your favorite songs, too! That’s Pete Seeger, not Bob Seger — and you should not confuse them.

  6. For a long time, I always thought the two were related …
    I also remember singing John Henry in elementary school music class in Denville, N.J. I might have to listen to Bruce’s CD to bring back the old memories from 5th or 6th grade!