"John Henry" is one of a number of tunes featured on Bruce Springsteen's new CD/DVD combination album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, the spontaneous recordings of traditional folk tunes, most of them in the public domain, that were made popular by folksinger/legend/political-left-wing-yahoo/whatever Pete Seeger over the years. The audio CD side of the Springsteen opus contains 13 selections, recorded in three one-day sessions over the past nine years. The DVD side has a documentary on the making of the album, along with a live performance of six of the featured songs. (If you saw this performance on public television lately, you should have known the recorded version would come out soon enough.)
While "The Boss" is not a great singer, he does a fine job with what he has, and this writer has found his acoustic efforts over the years "Nebraska" and "Ghost of Tom Joad" -- to be big favorites. In the liner notes, he writes: "Growing up as a rock n' roll kid I didn't know a lot about Pete's music or the depth of his influence. So I headed to the record store and came back with an armful of Pete Seeger records. Over the next few days of listening, the wealth of songs, their richness and power changed what I thought I knew about 'folk music.' Hearing this music... sent me off, casually at first, on a quest."
It has the feel of something genuinely thrown together by a group of musician-friends. The result is a rollicking good time that is definitely worth checking out.