Recommendation: We Shall Overcome by Bruce Springsteen
I’m the kind of person, demographically, who should be a Bruce Springsteen worshipper. But for some reason it never quite happened. There are definitely songs of his that I really like. But… well, perhaps it’s just that I feel I can get the same thing from Tom Waits, and I also get a nightmarish and deranged German cabaret freak show host shouting into a megaphone thrown into the bargain.
Perhaps I'm always worried I'm going to find Bruce Almighty a bit too earnest to take, and perhaps that’s why I wasn’t drawn to the idea of him recording an album inspired by the work of folk singer Pete Seeger (half-brother of the awesome Peggy, who lives just down the road). But right from the opening, with the fantastic version of ‘Old Dan Tucker’ (a song with something of a troubling history) it’s clear that being po-faced is not going to be a problem on this album. It actually reminds me of how Bellowhead was sounding at the same time: the big good-time traditionals band.
And let's hand it to The Boss, this album may be a collection of great musicians, but it's a great album because Springsteen pulls it all together with boundless charisma and makes it come alive.
Current Favourite Track:
The song that I just ended up playing on loop was ‘Mary Don’t You Weep’. And I mean on loop and on loop and on loop - one of those songs that take over and mean you can't listen to anything else. It's another song with a big big history in American culture, not least because it's quoted in the title of The Fire Next Time, one of James Baldwin's most famous books. All about what's going to happen to the new Egypt if its slavemasters don't wake up to the anger of the Old Testament Lord:
God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water, but fire next time
Pharoah's armies got drowned
Oh Mary don't you weep...
(The subtitles are completely wrong, by the way!)
By James Bell
Trad singer, songwriter and romantic fundamentalist.