Springsteen gathered a group of 17 journeyman musicians--the only other member of his famous E Street Band in attendance being wife and singer Patti Scialfa--to bring alive classic folk tunes such as "Old Dan Tucker," "My Oklahoma Home," "Shenandoah," "Erie Canal," and "Froggie Went a Courtin'."
Seeger didn't actually write any of these songs, but he collected them and brought them to the attention of the American public. Meticulous liner notes help to trace the history and provenance of each tune and the respective versions presented here.
Songs that might otherwise seem like moldy clichés benefit from vibrant performances on this album--from the heroic narratives of "Jesse James" and "John Henry" to "Eyes on the Prize" and "We Shall Overcome," songs that have been adopted by activist movements in the 20th century.
Springsteen arranges the songs as if they were barely controlled parties. He juggles a brass band, fiddles, accordion, upright bass, banjo, organ and enthusiastic group vocals, imparting Celtic flavor to "Mrs. McGrath" and gospel salvation to "O Mary Don't You Weep." The album--which is accompanied by a DVD featuring live video performances--is an unqualified joy.