So, on this album Springsteen works with a lot of folk musicians instead of his usual stable of musicians and the album is entirely covers of songs either written or popularized by Pete Seeger. The album seems poised to be either a masterpiece or a disaster. It’s a masterpiece. It is, I think, as genuinely energetic and exalted as Springsteen as ever been; a lot of songs that people call energetic are really more what I’d call desperate (Born to Run is a perfect example). But this is just a good ol’ fashioned stomper. The band is phenomenal and I just loved every second of this album. I loved every song on it, frankly. Be sure to get the American Land edition which has four or five extra tracks on it and they’re every bit as good as the album as a whole. The album just captures all these songs in near perfect, often definitive ways: the menacing, grim Erie Canal; the stomping, brass heavy gospel riff on Jacob’s Ladder; the quiet despair of Bring ‘Em Home; the lilting loveliness of Shenandoah; the burning anger of How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times & Live?; the witty, charming lope of Froggie Went A-Courtin’; the sloppy, wild Buffalo Gals; the beautiful balladry of My Oklahoma Home. God, I could write a good two sentences about every song on the album; but I won’t. I’ll just tell you it’s a great album and you really must hear it. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – a rootsier sound and a set of Seeger covers revitalizes Springsteen; this album of folk songs is a full-on, emotionally riveting masterpiece. 4 stars.