By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Bruce shall overcome

In reviewing Bruce Springsteen‘s new album, “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,” the Boston Globe’s Joan Anderman refers to Pete Seeger as “this century’s foremost activist folk singer.” This century, eh? Sadly, Anderman may be right, although not in the way she intended.

Worse, Anderman likes Springsteen’s last two albums, “Devils & Dust” and (ugh) “The Rising,” which, she claims, was marked by “a fierce, redemptive grace.”

Which is why I prefer this review of “We Shall Overcome,” by Slate’s Jody Rosen, who writes:

His two most recent albums have been particularly painful. The Rising (2002), Springsteen’s vaunted “response to Sept. 11,” made an almighty rock ‘n’ roll noise, but the lyrics found him straining for significance amid an explosion of abstract nouns: “faith,” “hope,” “blood,” “fire,” etc. Then came last year’s Devils & Dust, a folk-flecked album whose songs suggested that the Boss had taken the praise of the tweedy set too much to heart.


Rosen likes “We Shall Overcome” a lot, and I’m looking forward to hearing the whole thing. Perhaps it will be the spark that helps Springsteen rediscover his writing gift, much as Bob Dylan‘s two early-’90s albums of folk songs, “Good as I Been to You” and “World Gone Wrong,” led to his two best collections of orginals since his heyday, “Time Out of Mind” and “Love & Theft.”

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