"What through the tempest loudly roars / I hear the truth, it liveth / What through the darkness round me close / Songs in the night it giveth / No storm can shake my inmost calm / While to that rock I'm clinging / Since love is lord of heaven and earth / How can I keep from singing?"—from "How Can I Keep from Singing?"
A year ago, Bruce Springsteen released what I called his most spiritual album ever—the widely acclaimed Devils & Dust, with eight of its 12 tracks including religious references. I still think it's Springsteen's most sacred work yet, but his latest effort, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, gives D&D a spiritual run for its money.
What distinguishes The Seeger Sessions from D&D—indeed, from all of his 20 previous albums—is that the lyrics are not Springsteen's. This is a joyful hayride through 15 folk songs representing the best of Americana, all of them recorded by the legendary Pete Seeger at one time or another.
Springsteen fell in love with Seeger's music when he recorded "We Shall Overcome" for 1997's Where Have All the Flowers Gone: The Songs of Pete Seeger. At the time, Springsteen noticed what he now calls "the wealth" of Seeger songs, saying "their richness and power changed what I thought I knew about 'folk music.'"
And to the delight of many—and not just Springsteen fans, because this album is appealing to scores who aren't into his music—that newfound "wealth" now manifests itself in The Seeger Sessions, recorded in the living room of Springsteen's farmhouse. The sessions were a giddy romp for Bruce and a band of musicians he'd never met—they were recommended by E Street Band violinist Soozie Tyrell—before their first day in the "studio."