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Bruce Springsteen and the Sessions Band

Live in Dublin (Columbia)

Last year's Seeger Sessions saw the Boss unexpectedly twist toward traditional Americana. This Live in Dublin double disc and companion DVD finds him employing his seventeen-piece Sessions Band to expand that musical palette with exhilarating results. Where Springsteen's earlier folk forays -- the bare-bones Nebraska and more recent Devil & Dust -- confirmed his Everyman stance, this set delves into actual tradition via well-worn standards like "Erie Canal," "My Oklahoma Home," "We Shall Overcome," and, appropriately, rugged Irish ballads. Shifting the spotlight to an arsenal of fiddles, whistles, banjos, brass, and backing vocalists, the immaculate arrangements garner the approval of an exuberant crowd. Like the Pogues and the Waterboys at their most rambunctious, these stirring performances boast the sweep and spectacle of a roving revue with all the attendant indulgence.

The album's awe factor is heightened by the radically reworked versions of Springsteen standards "Blinded by the Light," "Growin' Up," "Atlantic City" -- all transformed into rowdy, revved-up hoedowns. Ultimately, though, the moving covers of the revered spiritual "We Shall Overcome" and his own "If I Should Fall Behind" prove that no matter whether on E Street or in Ireland, passion and sentiment make for universal bonds. Lee Zimmerman

 
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