Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
Release Date: April 25, 2006
Record Label: Columbia Records
We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions is a weird part of Bruce Springsteen’s catalog. The record is Springsteen’s only release to feature unoriginal music, as he chose to record renditions of 13 folk songs written by or made popular by Pete Seeger. The Seeger Sessions was also Springsteen’s second consecutive record without the E Street Band, playing music that was not rock and roll. Following the folky Devils And Dust, the record contributed to the period in the mid-2000s where Springsteen gave fans a ton of material that was unlike any of his prior efforts.
Another thing that’s strange about The Seeger Sessions is that it ultimately is not a record for the typical Bruce Springsteen fan. If you adore every single release from The Boss, you could easily completely ignore and not be a fan of this record. On the other hand, if you’re one of those guys who considers Springsteen’s material “boring,” then you could – for whatever reason – completely fall in love with this album.
Just because The Seeger Sessions isn’t for me doesn’t mean I don’t see its merit. The music simply isn’t something I’d choose to listen to given the entire lavish Springsteen discography to pick at. Despite all that, I still see four clear standouts from the album, which I do go back to on occasion. “Erie Canal” is a pretty intimate listen, “Pay Me My Money Down” has its catchy moments and “O Mary Don’t You Weep” is full of rich musicianship, chiming in at a hearty six minutes.
The shining star from this record, though, is the instantly accessible “John Henry,” where Springsteen puts on a blistering, bulldozing vocal performance. On top of that, the catchiness of the track makes it an essential listen. While The Seeger Sessions have those few standouts, everything else sort of bleeds together in the end. The original release of the 13 tracks is all very similar-sounding, but manages to be entertaining to listen to because of the extreme depth provided by a huge band – 13 musicians contributed to the record in total and many songs see them all playing at once.
A later re-release of The Seeger Sessions came with an original folk song Springsteen wrote called “American Land,” cementing the wholly Americana feel of the entire project. Used as a closer at many shows during the tours that followed the Seeger Sessions and Magic releases, “American Land” is the standout of the record if you’re judging the re-release.
Sometimes I feel like Bruce Springsteen just spent the mid-2000s showing off. As if the whole world didn’t already know he had the ability to do whatever he wanted, he made another brilliant acoustic record and this big-band folk record to prove to the masses that he can write any style of music and make it entertaining. Although it doesn’t rank even in the top three-quarters of my favorite Springsteen records, The Seeger Sessions is still to this day an enjoyable listen and a testament to The Boss’ craft.