Live In Dublin, Bruce Springsteen and the Sessions Band, Bruce Springsteen, 2007
I have been all over the American songbook for the past couple of years. Old –time Appalachia hills and hollows (ya, I know hollas but what is a poor city boy to do) stuff from the Carter Family and Clarence Ashley, country blues stuff from the likes of Son House, Skip James, and Bukka White, bluegrass from Doc Watson and Hazel Dickens, swamp cajun stuff from Clifton Chenier, Tex-Mex stuff, electrified come to the city blues via Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Then to the more “refined” playbook from the hills and hollows of, ah, New York City’s Tin Pan Alley by the likes of Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, and Irvin Berlin. Onward to the “founding” fathers and mothers of rock and roll like Elvis, Chuck, Jerry Lee, Carl, Wanda Jackson and Lavern Baker. Finally, well almost finally, the 1960s folk revival minute around Cambridge and New York that drove my youth with the likes of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Peter Seeger.
And it is that last name, Pete Seeger, that connects all of the above-mentioned genres with the CD under review, Bruce Springsteen’s epic (okay, okay, just monumental) “Live In Dublin” album, which is nothing (or almost nothing) but big kudos to his roots and to Pete’s efforts over a very long career to preserve some forgotten aspects of that American songbook. Peter is well known as a left-wing political activist and folksinger. Less well known is his role in keeping roots music alive (a task handed down from his musicologist father). So Bruce Springsteen, a rock and roll guy known to connect to his roots and to the people, is right at home here paying homage to the parts of the songbook that Pete has helped preserve.
The CD compilation I am reviewing is a two CD set with DVD of the Dublin performances complete with probably every known great session player available and, perhaps, every known western instrument from sexy sax to wailing kazoo (nice, right). The stick outs here include Jacob’s Ladder, We Shall Overcome, Jesse James, his version of Blind Alfred Reed’s How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live, and My Oklahoma Home. See the American songbook, and a couple of rock classics thrown in. Got it.