We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

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We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
Studio album by Bruce Springsteen
Released April 25, 2006
Recorded 1997, 2005, 2006
Genre Americana, folk
Length 60:34
Label Columbia
Producer Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau
Bruce Springsteen chronology
Hammersmith Odeon London '75
(2006)
We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
(2006)
Live in Dublin
(2007)

We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, released in 2006, is the fourteenth studio album by Bruce Springsteen.[1]

Background[edit]

This is Springsteen's first and so far only album of non-Springsteen material and contains his interpretation of thirteen folk music songs made popular by activist folk musician Pete Seeger. As an activist and artist of folk music, Seeger did not write any of the songs on the album. His life's work focused on popularizing and promoting the ethic of local, historical musical influences and recognizing the cultural significance of which folk music embodies.

The record began in 1997, when Springsteen recorded "We Shall Overcome" for the Where Have All the Flowers Gone: the Songs of Pete Seeger tribute album, released the following year. Springsteen had not known much about Seeger given his rock and roll upbringing and orientation, and proceeded to investigate and listen to his music.[2] While playing them in his house, his 10-year-old daughter said, "Hey, that sounds like fun," which caused Springsteen to get interested in further exploring the material and genre.[3]

Via Soozie Tyrell, the violinist in the E Street Band, Springsteen hooked up with a group of lesser-known musicians from New Jersey and New York, and they recorded in an informal, large band setting in Springsteen's Colts Neck, New Jersey farm.[2] In addition to Tyrell, previous Springsteen associates The Miami Horns as well as wife Patti Scialfa augmented the proceedings. This group would become The Sessions Band. The subsequent Bruce Springsteen with The Seeger Sessions Band Tour expanded on the album's musical approach.

Release[edit]

The album, like its predecessor Devils and Dust, has been released on DualDisc, in a CD/DVD double disc set, and as a set of two vinyl records.

For the DualDisc and CD/DVD sets, the full album is on the CD(-side), while the DVD(-side) side features a PCM Stereo version of the album and a short film about the making and recording of the album. Two bonus songs also appear on the DVD(-side).

On October 3, 2006, the album was reissued as We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions - American Land Edition with five additional tracks (the two bonus tracks from before and three new numbers that had been introduced and heavily featured on the tour), new videos, an expanded documentary and liner notes. Rather than a DualDisc release, the American Land Edition was released with separate CD and DVDs. Added sales were minimal.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[4]
The A.V. Club B+[5]
Entertainment Weekly A–[6]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[7]
The Observer 4/5 stars[8]
Pitchfork Media 8.5/10[9]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[10]
Spin 3/5 stars[11]
Uncut 4/5 stars[12]
The Village Voice B[13]

We Shall Overcome received widespread acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 82, based on 25 reviews.[14] In his review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine praised Springsteen's modern take on Seeger's repertoire of folk songs and said that it is the liveliest album of his career: "It's a rambunctious, freewheeling, positively joyous record unlike any other in Springsteen's admittedly rich catalog."[4] David Browne of Entertainment Weekly felt that Springsteen successfully imbues the songs with a "rock & roll energy" rather than an adherence to folk's blander musical aesthetic.[6] Rolling Stone magazine's Jonathan Ringen believed that he relied on folk and Americana styles on the album in order to "find a moral compass for a nation that's gone off the rails", particularly on the implicitly political "Oh, Mary Don't You Weep", "Eyes on the Prize", and "We Shall Overcome".[10] Gavin Martin of Uncut called it "a great teeming flood of Americana" and "a powerful example of how songs reverberate through the years to accrue contemporary meaning".[12]

In a less enthusiastic review, Neil Spencer of The Observer wrote that the songs chosen for the album lack intrigue and edge, and are "mostly too corny to have much drama restored to them".[8] Robert Christgau panned We Shall Overcome in his consumer guide for The Village Voice, wherein he gave it a "B",[13] which is assigned to bad albums he reviews as the "dud of the month" in his column.[15] He felt that Springsteen relies too much on a rural drawl and overblown sound when folk music requires subtlety and viewed the album as the worst case of his histrionic singing.[13]

Seeger himself was pleased by the result, saying "It was a great honor. [Springsteen]'s an extraordinary person, as well as an extraordinary singer."[3] We Shall Overcome was voted the 19th best album of the year in the Pazz & Jop, an annual critics poll run by The Village Voice.[16] In 2007, it won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album at the 49th Grammy Awards.[citation needed] By January 2009, the album had sold 700,000 copies in the United States.[17] the RIAA certified it with gold record status.

Track listing[edit]

All songs traditional or public domain with unknown songwriters, arranged by Bruce Springsteen, unless otherwise noted.

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Old Dan Tucker"     2:31
2. "Jesse James"   Billy Gashade 3:47
3. "Mrs. McGrath"     4:19
4. "O Mary Don't You Weep"     6:05
5. "John Henry"     5:07
6. "Erie Canal"   Thomas S. Allen 4:03
7. "Jacob's Ladder"     4:28
8. "My Oklahoma Home"   Bill and Agnes "Sis" Cunningham 6:03
9. "Eyes on the Prize"   Traditional; additional lyrics by Alice Wine 5:16
10. "Shenandoah"     4:52
11. "Pay Me My Money Down"     4:32
12. "We Shall Overcome"   Rev. Charles Tindley (lyrics); Adaptation by Guy Carawan, Frank Hamilton, Zilphia Horton, Pete Seeger 4:53
13. "Froggie Went A-Courtin'"     4:33

Unreleased outtakes[edit]

A handful of outtakes went unreleased from the final cut of the album. Springsteen would later release some of these on the American Land version of the album while songs such as the instrumental "Once Upon a Time in the West" was released on the We All Love Ennio Morricone album, a cover of Pete Seeger's "Hobo's Lullaby" made its way onto the Give Us Your Poor charity album. A re-recorded version of Springsteen's "The Ghost of Tom Joad", which featured Pete Seeger, was released on the Sowing the Seeds charity album. A studio version of "Bring 'Em Home" was also released by Sony as an internet download. During these sessions Springsteen also first recorded "Long Walk Home". This version remains unreleased although it was performed during this tour and would eventually be re-recorded for his next album, 2007's Magic. Two live versions of "American Land" were released however the studio recording from these sessions has yet to surface. Springsteen would re-record the song for his 2012 album, Wrecking Ball.[18]

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tony Scherman "Historical Recording: Springsteen Reignites the Folk Song" American Heritage, Nov./Dec. 2006.
  2. ^ a b We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (booklet). Bruce Springsteen. Columbia Records. 2006-03-06. 
  3. ^ a b Greene, Andy (February 27, 2008). "Pete Seeger: "I Feel Optimistic"". Rolling Stone. 
  4. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions - Bruce Springsteen". AllMusic. Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  5. ^ Murray, Noel (2006). "Review: Bruce Springsteen: We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions". The A.V. Club (May 3) (Chicago). Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Browne, David (April 28, 2006). "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions Review". Entertainment Weekly (New York) (874-875). Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  7. ^ Snow, Mat (2006). "CD: Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions". The Guardian (April 20) (London). Film & music section, p. 11. Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Spencer, Neil (2006). "Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome". The Observer (April 22) (London). Observer Music Monthly section, p. 51. Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  9. ^ Petrusich, Amanda (April 23, 2006). "Bruce Springsteen: We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved October 10, 2006. 
  10. ^ a b Ringen, Jonathan (May 4, 2006). "We Shall Overcome - The Seeger Sessions Album Review". Rolling Stone (New York) (999). Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  11. ^ Howe, Sean (2006). "New CDs". Spin (New York) (June): 84. Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Martin, Gavin (2006). Uncut (London) (June): 92. 
  13. ^ a b c Christgau, Robert (2006). "Consumer Guide: Radicals of the Moment". The Village Voice (May 30) (New York). Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Reviews for We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions by Bruce Springsteen". Metacritic. Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  15. ^ Christgau, Robert (2000). Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s. Macmillan. p. xvi. ISBN 0312245602. 
  16. ^ "The 2006 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice (February 6) (New York). 2007. Retrieved October 10, 2014. 
  17. ^ Smith, Ethan (2009-01-16). "Born to Run – and Promote". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-01-16. 
  18. ^ http://brucebase.wikispaces.com/The+Seeger+Sessions+-+Studio+Sessions

External links[edit]