the cards you were dealt

music friday: bruce springsteen and the seeger sessions band, “oh mary don’t you weep”

I’m going to keep calling this period in Bruce’s musical career his most underrated, until enough people get the picture and it becomes overrated.

Much of the Seeger Sessions album was recorded with musicians who hadn’t worked much with Bruce in the past, although in many cases they had worked with each other. Bruce was looking for a lively spontaneity in the performances, and so allowed a certain near-sloppy feel that rarely appeared on his studio recordings.

Wikipedia tells us that “Mary Don’t You Weep” is a Negro spiritual from before the Civil War. The Swan Silvertones had a hit with it in 1959 (and inspired Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”). Pete Seeger often sang it, of course. Aretha Franklin recorded it for the Amazing Grace album. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony featured it at the beginning of the video for their hit “Tha Crossroads”.

And then there was Bruce.

Here’s the official video, which gives a feel for the sloppy fun the Sessions Band was having. I especially like the way Patti and Soozie pal around as they sing backup vocals … they’d been singing together since the 70s, and it shows:

The tour that followed the album was a delight, although it was hard to convince people to go … all I had to say was “Old Dan Tucker” and they were scared off the project.

As the tour progressed, the band got tighter and tighter. The results were amazing (check out Live in Dublin), but the sloppiness was missed by some. Not to worry: it returned this year, when the E Street Band gave it the old college try: