There’s a lot of debate about whether or not Springsteen is an americana artist but, when he’s channeling the spirit of Pete Seeger, as he did on his 2006 album ‘We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions’, I can’t see that there’s any doubt at all.
The project had started back in 1997, when Springsteen recorded a version of ‘We Shall Overcome’ for the ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone: the Songs of Pete Seeger’ tribute album. Unfamiliar with Seeger’s work and intrigued by what he heard, he decided to delve further into Seeger’s catalogue of American folk songs and increasingly enjoyed what he heard. This lead to the making of ‘The Seeger Sessions’ album and a series of tours built around it.
This clip comes from the same year as the album’s release and was recorded live at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. For those of you who have been lucky enough to go to the festival, and I’ve attended a couple of times, you’ll know what a glorious event it is. Held on the infield of the Fair Grounds Race Course, the third oldest racetrack in America, it features multiple music stages and an intoxicating mix of music, street food and indigenous culture and crafts and is just one of the best parties in the biggest party town on the planet. The year this clip was recorded has special significance because it was the year following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the city and the future of the festival was in doubt, but organisers rallied and made sure the Festival was there to assure people that the Big Easy was still in business.
I love this clip for its sheer exuberance. Everybody looks like they’re having a great time and I don’t think I’ve ever seen Springsteen smile quite so much during a performance. It could be because they knew the cameras were rolling but it’s hard to fake that level of enthusiasm throughout a song. Springsteen had assembled a great band of folk and rock musicians around him for the recording and many stayed with him for the tours that followed. Charles Giordano, who would replace Danny Federici in the E Street Band when Federici died in 2008, really comes into his own here with a great accordion solo and Soozie Tyrell looks like she’s loving every minute in her role as violinist and backing singer. Patti Scialfa’s there, obviously, being the great support to Springsteen that she always is and the horn section is bang on the money every time they dive in. It’s just a lot of fun and if, after watching it, you don’t have a smile on your own face and find yourself humming the song, you might just want to check for a pulse!
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