We Shall Overcome: The Pete Seeger Sessions (2006)


1. Old Dan Tucker 2. Jesse James 3. Mrs. McGrath 4. O Mary Don't You Weep 5. John Henry 5. Erie Canal 7. Jacob's Ladder 8. My Oklahoma Home 9. Eyes on the Prize 10.Shenandoah 11.Pay Me My Money Down 12.We Shall Overcome 13.Froggie Went a Courtin' - bonus tracks - American Land Edition - 14.Buffalo Gals 15.How Can I Keep From Singing 16.How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live 17.Bring 'Em Home 18.American Land

 

Bruce really surprised me with this one. With a title like "We Shall Overcome" covering the protest artist from the 1960s Pete Seeger in the midst of a couple of unpopular wars, I imagined this to be one of his thoughtful, introspective albums that seemed to focus more on message than music. I was in for a big, big surprise. This is really nothing like the Banjo playing artist that seemed to define folk music. This is a spontaneous, rollicking, good ol' country fair music that becomes infectious upon the very first listen and never gets old.

The recording sessions for this album have also become legend. Springsteen gathered a wide variety of musicians and instruments, including horns, banjo, accordions, tubas, and a host of background singers into his farmhouse living room. They didn't do any rehearsing, and played through a bunch of classic, American tunes - some from the 1800s. The results are pure magic and joy. This is a combination of horseshoe pitching, county fiardancing music that, as a musician, it must feel incredible to be able to create such magic so effortlessly. It reminds the listener a little bit of Bob Dylan and the Band's "The Basement Tapes" - not really in song style, but in spontaneity.

In fact having the name "Pete Seeger" in the title is a little bit misleading, even though Pete played all of these songs through his memorable career. The title "We Shall Overcome" is a little misleading as well, since most of the songs aren't dreary protest songs. In fact, it's only near the end of the record when he starts to belt a few of these out that the listener starts to feel a bit disappointed. O.K. songs like the title song, and How Can An Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live are great, in themselves, but they're one heckuva downer after Erie Canal, My Oklahoma Home and O Mary Don't You Weep No More. Sure, you could argue some of these spiritual songs and anti-war songs aren't really cheerful but the presentation of these tracks is in a spirt that demands frivolity and cheerful sing-alongs (Mrs. McGrath is a perfect example).

So many of these songs you may have heard before. Maybe you've heard them and don't recognize them by the title, so it's not until you hear the song that you go "oh yeah....". But whatever the history, you'll love the majority of these songs, and kudos goes to Springsteen for pulling something like this off - especially since there was no practicing, nor rehearsals.

NOTE: Since I don't buy physical CDs anymore, I'm not sure how the five "bonus" songs could be obtained. They may be a bit unnecessary, but they all should have been included and fit the overall theme quite well. Especially welcome are Buffalo Gals and the "immigrant" song American Land.

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