Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

You are here

Angie Spray's picture
Posted on Thu, 10/22/2015 - 4:59pm
by Angie Spray

Member since: Sat, 01/03/2015

Release Type

Studio Album

Release Year


Rate this release

Total votes: 55




Album Overview

We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions is the fourteenth studio album by Bruce Springsteen.

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. 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.

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. 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.


1Old Dan Tucker2:31
2Jesse James3:48
3Mrs. McGrath4:20
4O Mary Don't You Weep6:05
5John Henry5:07
6Erie Canal4:03
7Jacob's Ladder4:28

Lyrics By [Additional Words]: Pete Seeger

8My Oklahoma Home6:04

Written-By: Bill Cunningham

Written-By: Sis Cunningham

9Eyes On The Prize5:17

Lyrics By [Additional]: Alice Wine

11Pay Me My Money Down4:32
12We Shall Overcome4:53

Adapted By [Musical And Lyrical]: Frank Hamilton

Adapted By [Musical And Lyrical]: Guy Carawan

Adapted By [Musical And Lyrical]: Pete Seeger

Adapted By [Musical And Lyrical]: Zilphia Horton

13Froggie Went A Courtin'4:33


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. 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." 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. 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". 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".

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". Robert Christgau panned We Shall Overcome in his consumer guide for The Village Voice, wherein he gave it a "B", which is assigned to bad albums he reviews as the "dud of the month" in his column. 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.

Seeger himself was pleased by the result, saying "It was a great honor. [Springsteen]'s an extraordinary person, as well as an extraordinary singer." 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. In 2007, it won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album at the 49th Grammy Awards. By January 2009, the album had sold 700,000 copies in the United States. the RIAA certified it with gold record status.

Unreleased outtakes

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.

  • American Land
  • Long Walk Home
  • I Come and Stand At Every Door
  • Pretty Boy Floyd
  • Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore
  • If I Had a Hammer
  • Worried Man Blues


Bruce Springsteen – lead vocals, guitar, harmonica, B-3 organ, and percussion
Sam Bardfeld – violin
Art Baron – tuba
Frank Bruno – guitar
Jeremy Chatzky – upright bass
Mark Clifford – banjo
Larry Eagle – drums and percussion
Charles Giordano – B-3 organ, piano, and accordion
Ed Manion – saxophone
Mark Pender – trumpet, backing vocals
Richie "La Bamba" Rosenberg – trombone, backing vocals
Patti Scialfa – backing vocals
Soozie Tyrell – violin, backing vocals


Adapted By [Music]: Bruce Springsteen
Arranged By: Bruce Springsteen
Art Direction: Christopher Austopchuk
Art Direction, Design: Michelle Holme
Design: Meghan Foley
Mastered By [Audio]: Bob Ludwig
Mixed By: Bob Clearmountain
Mixed By [Assistant]: Brandon Duncan
Other [Dvd Directed & Edited By]: Thom Zimny
Photography: Danny Clinch
Producer [Cd]: Bruce Springsteen
Producer [Dvd]: Thom Zimny
Recorded By: Toby Scott
Recorded By [Assistant]: Kevin Buell
Recorded By [Assistant]: Ross Peterson


CD side: 13 audio tracks. Tracks 1 to 5, 7, 9 to 11 and 13 are traditional. Track 6 was originally written by Thomas S. Allen as "Low Bridge, Everybody Down" and is public domain. DVD side: PCM Stereo (13 album tracks plus 2 bonus tracks: Buffalo Gals, How Can I Keep From Singing), 30-minute film about the recording of the album, including artist commentary and filmed performances of: John Henry - Pay Me My Money Down - Buffalo Gals - Erie Canal - O Mary Don't You Weep - Shenandoah.



We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia : taken from -