Monday, January 29, 2007


No excuse for me being this late. School's a bitch. I promise to post #1 before the end of January. As if any of you are still in the dark about what it is....

2. Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
It seemed like the worst idea in the world when I first heard about it. I checked several sources to make sure I had read right. And then I promptly forgot all about it. Bruce has been one of my favorite artists for years now, but here, I thought, I could not follow him. It was going to be boring, spare versions of songs that had little relevance today, a senseless act of self-indulgence.
I should have known better. One thing that struck me about Springsteen when I saw him last fall on the Devils & Dust tour was not his energy (which was plentiful), or his charisma (which he has just as much now as ever), but his musical inventiveness. He played with his songs effortlessly, deconstructing them and putting them back together in ways that took my breath away. He made “Reason to Believe” into a bluesy howl full of distortion and scratchy harmonica. He made “Incident on 57th Street” into a beautiful solo piece. He played at least ten different instruments. Above all, he really showed why he has had the staying power that he has had. It’s not the energy, the songwriting, or the sex appeal, although all those things no doubt helped. It’s the fact that the man lives and breathes music. It’s his love of the game. He gives all of himself when he sings, plays, and writes. He recognizes the fact that there’s nothing else he could do with his life and feels so lucky to be able to do it.
It’s this love of playing that makes We Shall Overcome so intoxicating. The album was recorded live during two one-day sessions. No rehearsals. No second takes. Just a bunch of musicians having a blast. It’s the nature of bluegrass that it works best when it’s spontaneous and off-the-cuff. And hearing Seeger’s songs redone as bluegrass tunes really brings out a freshness in the writing that never came across to me listening to Seeger’s recordings of them.
We Shall Overcome will never be my favorite Springsteen album. As great of an interpreter as Bruce is, he never sounds as good as when he’s singing his own words and playing his own notes. It’s better than I ever thought it could be, though, and it will always serve as a reminder of his musical inventiveness and his passion for his art. And yes, he’s my biggest man-crush of them all. Sigh.


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