Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bill Madden: Cold Comfort for Hot Jeter

The New York Daily News
April 27, 2006

A couple of hours before game time, Derek Jeter was rummaging through his locker in search of a satisfactory pair of socks when a visitor approached and he looked.

"What's the weather out there?" he asked.

"Very cold and windy," he was told.

Jeter frowned.

"I don't know what it is," he said. "All the time we were away it seemed it was in the 70s here but since we've been home, it's been like this almost every day."

At that point, a bit of debate arose in the clubhouse as to whether hitters or pitchers benefit from cold, inclement weather.

"The hitters, definitely," said Mariano Rivera. "I hate the cold."

"Without doubt the pitchers," said Jeter. "No hitter likes hitting when it's cold like this."

Considering his .384 average, however, Jeter seemed to be the last person who should be complaining about the weather. As Don Zimmer, his old mentor and favorite foil who is now a special adviser with the visiting Devil Rays, observed: "Don't matter what the circumstances are, he's gonna get his 200 hits and he just gets better and better."

There can hardly be much argument with that. Last year was Jeter's fourth 200-hit season, the second-most of any Yankee in history other than Lou Gehrig (who had eight). And with 27hits in his first 69 at-bats entering last night, Jeter was off to his best start this season since 1999.

But it's been much more than just the quantity of hits as it's been the quality of both his hits and his at-bats. Everything he hits seems to be hit hard. Eight of his 18 RBI have either tied the score or given the Yankees a lead and his 16 walks put him among the league leaders. In the eyes of his teammates, he's about as locked in as they've ever seen him.

"What I've noticed especially," said Bernie Williams, "is the way he's been hitting the ball with authority to the opposite field. Plus, he's on in all his at-bats."

Of course, the season is not even a month old, which is maybe why Jeter downplays his torrid start. When asked what might account for it - returning to the second slot? Some new secrets from hitting coach Don Mattingly? - he shrugged.

"I don't pay attention to my stats," he insisted, "only whether we win."
And then he offered a parallel.

"The only reason what you do now gets noticed more is because there's so little to go on," Jeter said. "You look up at that scoreboard and see some really big batting averages - and some really ugly ones too. I just remember a couple of years ago when I was in that real bad slump in the middle of the season. It didn't wear on me nearly as much as it might have because I had enough padding in there."

Such is the fickle nature of a game in which a highly successful hitter is one who fails two-thirds of the time. Jeter is probably smart not to put too much stock in his hot bat amid the April cold, and rather just enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

Joe Torre will tell you that as long as he's been Yankee manager, he's come to expect good things every time Jeter comes to bat. Asked last night if this was about as "locked in" as he's ever seen his shortstop, Torre winced.

"Don't jinx him," he implored. "All I'll say is right now he's swinging the bat real good. His arms are extended and it doesn't seem to matter where he is in the count."

At the same time, Torre was quick to scoff at any suggestion that restoring Jeter to his old No. 2 hole in the lineup, within a cocoon of Johnny Damon's speed in front of him and the power of Gary Sheffield behind him, was partly responsible for his early resurgence.

"That has nothing to do with it," Torre said. "With Derek, it's never mattered where he bats in the lineup and he's always had protection. Remember, when he batted leadoff, we had Alex (Rodriguez) No.2. He's always been surrounded by quality hitters. That's what George Steinbrenner does for you here."

One can only wonder what Steinbrenner thought of his expensive hitters last night after they squandered 14 walks and stranded 16 runners in losing 4-2 in 10 innings to the banged up D-Rays. Jeter had two of those walks and a base hit to set the stage for the final-inning bases-loaded Yankee crap-out, but it was Rivera who surrendered the decisive Tampa Bay runs in the top of the inning when he got too many of his fastballs over the middle of the plate.

So from the Yankees' standpoint, in terms of the weather debate, they were both right. It was enough to leave anyone in pinstripes cold.

Carrie Lukas: Rape Myths Perform Injustice, Too

April 27, 2006, 6:47 a.m.
One in Four?
Rape myths do injustice, too.

One in four women is the victim of rape or attempted rape.

This familiar statistic comes to mind as the rape indictment of two Duke University lacrosse players dominates national news. It may be a fitting backdrop for this scandal, not just because the statistic reminds us that all women are vulnerable to this terrible crime, but also because the evidence behind the number is dubious.

"One in four" has been repeated so often on college campuses and in the media that many people accept it without question. Few know how it was calculated. Few ask, because asking implies questioning its veracity, and, in this post-feminist era, it's taboo to question sex-crime data or the claims of any alleged rape victim.

Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute delved into these uncomfortable waters in Who Stole Feminism. The one-in-four statistic, she found, was derived from a survey of 3,000 college women in 1982. Researchers used three questions to determine if respondents had been raped: Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn't want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs? Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn't want to because a man threatened or used some degree of physical force... to make you? And, have you had sexual acts...when you didn't want to because a man threatened to use some degree of physical force... to make you?

Based on women's responses, researchers concluded that 15 percent of women surveyed had been raped and 12 percent had experienced an attempted rape. Therefore, 27 percent of women — more than one in four — were either the victims of rape or attempted rape. This is the origin of the one-in-four statistic.

Yet other data from that same survey undercut its conclusion. While alcohol surely plays a part in many rape cases, the survey's wording invites the label of rape victim to be applied to anyone who has ever drank too much, had a sexual encounter, and then regretted it later. In addition, only 25 percent of the women whom researchers counted as being raped described the incident as rape themselves. The survey found that four in ten of the survey's rape victims, and one in three victims of attempted rape, chose to have intercourse with their so-called attacker again. The survey researchers scratched their heads as to why these women would return to their attackers, but Sommers asks the obvious question: "Since most women the survey counted as victims didn't think they had been raped, and since so many went back to their partners, isn't it reasonable to conclude that many had not been raped to begin with?"

Correcting for the biases in the original survey yields a radically different picture of the prevalence of rape in America. Subtract the women identified by the alcohol and drug question and those who didn't think they had been raped, and total victims fall to between 3 and 5 percent of the women surveyed. This remains an alarmingly high number, but significantly less alarming than the one-in-four figure.It certainly is possible that this revised estimate understates the frequency of rape — women may be reluctant to admit having been violated even in an anonymous survey. Another study, for example, found that one in eight American women — about 12 percent — had been victimized.

Regardless of the exact figure, rape is a terrible crime too prevalent in our society. Great efforts should be made to reduce the number of victims and bring perpetrators to justice. Allegations of rape, including those at Duke, must be taken seriously and investigated fully.

In the past, victims of rape were made to feel that the crime was their fault. Many women around the world still suffer this bias. Today in the United States, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. A man accused of rape often is convicted in the court of public opinion without evidence.

At Duke, a woman has accused three men of raping her. Two have been indicted. We know the names of the accused; we've seen their pictures; their lives will never be the same. We've learned terrible things about the Duke lacrosse players: One sent a chillingly misogynistic email, and there are reports of racial slurs. One is standing trail for a previous assault charge. This behavior deserves condemnation, and we as a society should consider why these young men have adopted this behavior.

Perhaps the evidence will show they also committed the heinous crime of rape. If so, they will be — and they should be — severely punished. Yet the media — so quick to sensationalize the accuser's account and condemn the lacrosse players — now is revealing facts suggesting that the accused might be innocent of this crime. Our legal system presumes innocence until guilt is proven. The rest of us, watching on TV and chatting at the watercooler, should try to do the same.

— Carrie Lukas is vice president for policy and economics at the Independent Women's Forum and the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism.

United 93: The Filmmakers Got it Right


The Wall Street Journal
Thursday, April 27, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

The calendar says it's April 25, 2006. At noon, my wife, Peggy, and I are walking around Battery Park--near the Tribeca area--in New York. It is our first time. The flowers are blooming; kids are fishing; people boarding the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Kids are laughing and noisy. The sun is shining. The vendors are hawking T-shirts, pretzels and some "designer" wares. And just up the street there is a hole in the skyline and in the ground.
In the park, there is a memorial with walls standing tall. Walls filled with so many names of those who gave their all in the Atlantic in World War II. How fitting that the names are here to honor those who gave their lives to enable this fun, this laughter--on this sunny day. The sights and sounds of freedom continue.

Fast forward--it is 10:30 p.m., April 25. We have just seen a movie premiere at the fifth annual Tribeca Film Festival. A film festival that has done so much to energize and revitalize the city, its people and especially the area that has that hole in the skyline and in the ground. This year the movie that had its worldwide premiere at the festival is titled "United 93." It is about the day when the hole in the skyline of New York was made--the day when a hole was made in the side of the Pentagon near Washington, D.C.--the day when a hole was made in a quiet mountain meadow in Pennsylvania. The day that our nation was attacked; the day when the war came home--Sept. 11, 2001. The day our son Todd boarded United 93.

Paul Greengrass and Universal set out to tell the story of United Flight 93 on that terrible day in our nation's history. They set about the task of telling this story with a genuine intent to get it right--the actions of those on board and honor their memory. Their extensive research included reaching out to all the families who had lost loved ones on United Flight 93 as the first casualties of this war. And Paul and his team got it right.


There are those who question the timing of this project and the painful memories it evokes. Clearly, the film portrays the reality of the attack on our homeland and its terrible consequences. Often we attend movies to escape reality and fantasize a bit. In this case and at this time, it is appropriate to get a dose of reality about this war and the real enemy we face. It is not too soon for this story to be told, seen and heard. But it is too soon for us to become complacent. It is too soon for us to think of this war in only national terms. We need to be mindful that this enemy, who made those holes in our landscape and caused the deaths of some 3,000 of our fellow free people, has a vision to personally kill or convert each and every one of us. This film reminds us that this war is personal. This enemy is on a fanatical mission to take away our lives and liberty--the liberty that has been secured for us by those whose names are on those walls in Battery Park and so many other walls and stones throughout this nation. This enemy seeks to take away the free will that our Creator has endowed in us. Patrick Henry got it right some 231 years ago. Living without liberty is not living at all.

The passengers and crew of United 93 had the blessed opportunity to understand the nature of the attack and to launch a counterattack against the enemy. This was our first successful counterattack in our homeland in this new global war--World War III.

This film further reminds us of the nature of the enemy we face. An enemy who will stop at nothing to achieve world domination and force a life devoid of freedom upon all. Their methods are inhumane and their targets are the innocent and unsuspecting. We call this conflict the "War on Terror." This film is a wake-up call. And although we abhor terrorism as a tactic, we are at war with a real enemy and it is personal.

There are those who would hope to escape the pain of war. Can't we just live and let live and pretend every thing is OK? Let's discuss, negotiate, reason together. The film accurately shows an enemy who will stop at nothing in a quest for control. This enemy does not seek our resources, our land or our materials, but rather to alter our very way of life.

I encourage my fellow Americans and free people everywhere to see "United 93."

Be reminded of our very real enemy. Be inspired by a true story of heroic actions taken by ordinary people with victorious consequences. Be thankful for each precious day of life with a loved one and make the most of it. Resolve to take the right action in the situations of life, whatever they may be. Resolve to give thanks and support to those men, women, leaders and commanders who to this day (1,687 days since Sept. 11, 2001) continue the counterattacks on our enemy and in so doing keep us safe and our freedoms intact.

May the taste of freedom for people of the Middle East hasten victory. The enemy we face does not have the word "surrender" in their dictionary. We must not have the word "retreat" in ours. We surely want our troops home as soon as possible. That said, they cannot come home in retreat. They must come home victoriously. Pray for them.

Mr. Beamer is the father of Todd Beamer, a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Kathleen Parker- Duke Dancer: "Why Shouldn't I Profit From It?"

April 26, 2006
The Orlando Sentinel
Kathleen Parker

Nobody wants to play second string, and exotic dancers are no exception to the rule.
Which becomes a problem when, by fate or misfortune, you're cast in the media drama du jour as ... The Second Dancer.

Always a stripper, never a star.

Not if you're Kim Roberts - the other dancer at the Duke University lacrosse team party last month when three guys allegedly raped the other dancer hired for the event.
That's Kim. Roberts. Kimroberts. Kimmmmmm RRRRRRRoberts. Got it?

Roberts wants, badly, for you to remember that name. Because, as it turns out, the worst thing that might have happened to the accuser may have been the best thing that ever happened to Kim Roberts.

Or so she apparently hopes.

For a few days, it seemed as though no one would notice or remember Kim Roberts. She didn't see anything, after all, and for a while she said she didn't believe the accuser's story, according to defense attorneys for the accused Duke students. Thus, she faced the unthinkable - being un-famous, an un-celebrity. Un-known.

It is no longer enough simply "to be," as the Bard once posed the human conundrum. Today one must "be known." Celebrity is the goal line, and Roberts is no one's cheerleader. Nor anyone's fool.

Suddenly, the divorced mother had a novel idea: It coulda happened.

So naturally, she contacted a New York public relations firm, the very same that represents Lil' Kim, the incarcerated rapper of whom Roberts reportedly is a fan.

In an e-mail to 5W Public Relations obtained by Fox News, Roberts wrote:

"Although I am no celebrity and just an average citizen, I've found myself in the center of one of the biggest stories in the country. I'm worried about letting this opportunity pass me by without making the best of it and was wondering if you had any advice as to how to spin this to my advantage. I am determined not to let any negative publicity about my life overtake me."

Signed, "The 2nd Dancer."

First off, never write an e-mail you wouldn't mind seeing on Fox News. Maybe Roberts doesn't mind, as those who pursue celebrity seldom concern themselves with the reason for fame, only the fame itself.

And, of course, the financial rewards one hopes to reap as a result. Roberts was clear on that score.

"Why shouldn't I profit from it?" she said when questioned about her willingness to profit from her colleague's alleged rape - or the ruin of two young men who may be innocent of the charges. "I didn't ask to be in this position ... I would like to feed my daughter."

I'm all for feeding one's children. And surely, rising to instant celebrity potentially offers a better menu than does dancing for dollars.

I know we're not supposed to question a person's character these days. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do and boys will be ... no, wait, that's wrong. Girls are virtuous because they're stripping to feed their children; boys are evil because they will pay a virtuous single mom to strip. It's all so confusing, isn't it?

Probably more to the point, Roberts' query to the PR firm, which has declined to represent her, coincided with her new slant on events that night.

"I was not in the bathroom when it happened," she told the Associated Press. "So I can't say a rape occurred - and I never will. Later, after her own criminal record was raised, Roberts said, "In all honesty, I think they're guilty ... and I can't say which ones are guilty ... but somebody did something ... that's my honest-to-God impression."

Who wants this story? Bidding starts at $25,000. Do I hear $25,500? Anyone? Anyone?
The $25,000 figure isn't random, but is the precise amount Roberts was convicted of embezzling from a Durham, N.C., photofinishing company a few years ago.

Coincidentally, around the same time Roberts was forming her new impression of what went down at the lacrosse party, a judge excused Roberts from having to pay a 15 percent fee to a bonding agent. Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, who is prosecuting the two Duke sophomores charged with raping the first dancer, signed off on the agreement.

I can't say Roberts is getting favorable treatment for becoming a better prosecution witness. I was not in the lawyer's office when it happened. So I can't say a transaction occurred - and I never will. In all honesty, I think somebody did something ... that's my honest-to-God impression.

It coulda happened. Or not.

Robert Spencer- Sami Al-Arian: Guilty as Charged

Robert Spencer
April 20, 2006

After years of denial, Sami Al-Arian has finally admitted it: he has pleaded guilty to a charge of “conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds to or for the benefit of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Specially Designated Terrorist” organization. He has agreed to accept deportation. In his 2002 defense of Al-Arian, Eric Boehlert wrote: “The al-Arian story reveals what happens when journalists, abandoning their role as unbiased observers, lead an ignorant, alarmist crusade against suspicious foreigners who in a time of war don't have the power of the press or public sympathy to fight back.” Reality is just the opposite. The al-Arian story reveals what happens when journalists and Leftist academics, abandoning their role as unbiased observers, lead an ignorant, alarmist crusade against Americans who in a time of war try to defend our country from those whose politics make them the darlings of the Leftist media and academic establishment.

Al-Arian’s guilty plea is a dizzying turnaround from last December 6, when the former University of South Florida professor was acquitted on eight of seventeen terror-related charges. At that time, Linda Moreno, an attorney for Al-Arian, exulted: “This was a political prosecution from the start, and I think the jury realized that.” The acquittal appeared to vindicate the many journalists and academics who had maintained Al-Arian’s innocence for so long. Chief among them was Boehlert, whose January 2002 article was entitled “The prime-time smearing of Sami Al-Arian: By pandering to anti-Arab hysteria, NBC, Fox News, Media General and Clear Channel radio disgraced themselves -- and ruined an innocent professor’s life.” Then there was John Esposito, director of Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and author of numerous apologetic books about Islam. In a letter to Dr. Judy Genshaft, President of the University of South Florida, after she fired Al-Arian, Esposito reminded her that “the University did a thorough independent review several years ago which found no merit in accusations made at that time” and worried that Al-Arian was merely falling victim to “anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry.”

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times also likely felt vindicated. In March 2002 he went to bat for Al-Arian, portraying him as a Gandhi behind bars, a victimized absent-minded professor: “The point is not whether one agrees with Professor Al-Arian, a rumpled academic with a salt-and-pepper beard who is harshly critical of Israel (and also of repressive Arab countries) — but who also denounces terrorism, promotes inter-faith services with Jews and Christians, and led students at his Islamic school to a memorial service after 9/11 where they all sang ‘God Bless America.’ No, the larger point is that a university, even a country, becomes sterile when people are too intimidated to say things out of the mainstream.” Al-Arian’s detractors, not his defenders, were the ones who were supposed to be intimidated into silence.

Will Kristof now apologize? Will Boehlert? Esposito? Al-Arian’s attorney Linda Moreno, who was so quick in December to charge the government with political motives in prosecuting Al-Arian, on February 28 signed Al-Arian’s plea agreement. The agreement leaves no room for doubt: “Defendant is pleading guilty because defendant is in fact guilty. The defendant certifies that the defendant does hereby admit that the facts set forth below [in the plea agreement] are true, and were this case to go to trial, the United States would be able to prove those specific facts and others beyond a reasonable doubt.” What’s more, Al-Arian acknowledged that he was “pleading guilty freely and voluntarily…and without threats, force, intimidation, or coercion of any kind.” But in speaking to reporters after Al-Arian signed the agreement, Moreno acknowledged only that “In the agreement, he did not plead guilty to any crime of violence, and by pleading he gave his family closure in this ordeal.”

What of Al-Arian’s myriad other defenders? Some backpedaling and track-covering has already begun. At the Free Sami Al-Arian website, statements made in Al-Arian’s defense by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, readable as late as Tuesday morning, are no longer accessible. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), however, was ready to concede nothing. CAIR-Florida’s Ahmed Bedier, in flat contradiction of the agreement that Al-Arian actually signed, declared: “The decision not to retry Dr. Al-Arian is proof that the prosecution lacked the necessary evidence to secure a conviction in this case.” Diving deeper into fantasyland, Bedier insisted: “There was also a report somewhere, earlier today in some media, that the, uh, guilty plea, one of the guilty plea, that he agreed to a lesser charge of some sort of conspiracy. We have confirmed that that is false. There is no plea to any sort of conspiracy to support terrorism at all.” A press release from CAIR’s national office disingenuously neglected to identify the “lesser charge” to which Al-Arian pled guilty, and echoed Linda Moreno in noting that “the government conceded in the agreement that there were no acts of violence committed by Al-Arian.”

But this is a distinction without a difference, and a canny attempt by both Moreno and CAIR to imply that what Al-Arian has now admitted to having done was somehow innocuous. If Al-Arian was aiding the group, and the group was killing Israeli civilians, then Al-Arian was aiding in those murders. After all, Al-Arian stood by approvingly at one Islamic conference while former Cleveland Imam Fawaz Damra (himself now also deported) tried to raise money for Islamic Jihad by saying: “Donate to the Islamic Jihad. Nidal Zalooum from the Islamic Jihad held a dagger and stabbed four of the Jews in the courtyard of Al-Haram Al-Qudsi….One of them would leave his house with a knife to stab the Jews -- twelve Jews -- after the events of the Gulf War. Brothers, the Intifadah calls you. Five hundred dollars! Who would add to five hundred dollars?”

Moreover, it is clear that the former professor holds to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s ideology of Islamic supremacism and the destruction of Israel. That ideology is inseparable from the larger aspirations of the global mujahedin, who strive ultimately to impose Sharia upon the Islamic world and then the non-Muslim world – and to commit acts of violence to that end. Al-Arian’s guilty plea and deportation thus constitute a significant setback for the subversive, soft jihad that the mujahedin have been waging in the West, largely (but not solely) by financing jihad activities elsewhere in the world under religious and academic cover.

Paul Perez, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, put it succinctly: “Al-Arian has now confessed to helping terrorists do their work from his base here in the United States -- a base he is no longer able to maintain.” He is unable to maintain that base today no thanks to CAIR, Nicholas Kristof, Eric Boehlert, John Esposito, and numerous other pillars of today’s academic and journalistic elites – elites which Al-Arian’s guilty plea have been shown once again to be thoroughly, irredeemably corrupt.

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Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of five books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). He is also an Adjunct Fellow with the Free Congress Foundation.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

'Seeger Sessions' a Rock of Ages

Friday, April 21, 2006
Newark Star-Ledger

For a folk album, Bruce Springsteen's "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" really rocks.

On most songs, the Boss sings in a gritty style that's closer to the bar-band Springsteen of "Ramrod" and "Cadillac Ranch" than the somber Springsteen of "My Hometown" and "The Ghost of Tom Joad." Songs like "John Henry," "Jesse James," "Old Dan Tucker" and "Pay Me My Money Down" hurtle forward with unstoppable force. A large acoustic band -- fiddles, acoustic guitars, upright bass, accordion etc. --generates a steady-flowing river of sound, with a mini-choir adding gospel passion.

Drums crash, banjo riffs careen wildly. Just when you least expect it, the band will break into Dixieland, or gypsylike fiddles will take over.

Allowing listeners to catch their breath, Springsteen tones down the band's bombast on ballads like "Shenandoah" and the classic protest song, "We Shall Overcome." But these moments are rare.

Trumpeter Mark Pender, saxophonist Ed Manion and trombonist Richie "La Bamba" Rosenberg -- all longtime members of Southside Johnny's Asbury Jukes -- are among the 13 backing musicians. The last thing you would do if you wanted to make a traditional folk album is hire a bunch of Jukes.

"It was a carnival ride, the sound of surprise and the pure joy of playing," Springsteen, 56, writes of the album sessions, in the liner notes. "Street corner music, parlor music, tavern music, wilderness music, circus music, church music, gutter music, it was all there waiting in those songs, some more than one hundred years old."

In the past, Springsteen -- who was scheduled to present the first rehearsal show for his Seeger Sessions Band tour, last night at Asbury Park's Convention Hall -- has been a perfectionist in the recording studio. But he resists the urge to polish here, leaving in a muffed line on "John Henry," and shouted-out musical directions on "Pay Me My Money Down."

He recorded the album in three one-day sessions spread out over nine years, going back to 1997. That was the same year he contributed a single song, "We Shall Overcome," to a Pete Seeger tribute album. Recording that song led him to explore Seeger's recorded work further; the "richness and power" of what he found there inspired this album, he writes in the liner notes.

"We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" comes out on Tuesday, almost a year, to the day, after the appearance of Springsteen's last studio album, "Devils & Dust." Not since he released his first two albums in 1973 has he put out two studio efforts in a year or less (unless you count "Human Touch" and Lucky Town," released on the same day in 1992).

Of course, "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions," isn't a major statement, like "Born To Run" or "Born in the USA" or "The Rising." It's a detour, an experiment, a genre exercise, in the tradition of albums like "Everybody's Rockin'" (Neil Young does rockabilly) or "Almost Blue" (Elvis Costello tackles country).

This doesn't mean it's as ill-conceived as those albums. And it doesn't mean that there aren't some threads that connect the songs to Springsteen's prior work. The working-class pride of "John Henry" makes it a natural Springsteen number: the title character dies trying to keep pace with a steam drill, but his spirit lives on. The spiritual uplift of "Jacob's Ladder" and the antiwar sentiment of "Mrs. McGrath" (about a grief of a mother whose son loses his legs at war) are also familiar Springsteen themes.

In the less-than-glorious tradition of "Pony Boy" and "My Best Was Never Good Enough" (the final tracks of "Human Touch" and "The Ghost of Tom Joad," respectively), Springsteen ends the album with a throwaway: the children's song, "Froggie Went a-Courtin'." A better choice would have been the richly textured group-vocal version of "How Can I Keep From Singing," heard only as a bonus track on the DVD side of this DualDisc release.

The DVD also includes footage of Springsteen and the band recording in the living room of his Colts Neck farmhouse; the room is so small the horn players have to stand in the hall. At one point, the musicians venture outside the house, with their instruments, for an impromptu jam session in a field. Springsteen beams, and why shouldn't he? It always feels good to make a fresh start, or just take a break from business as usual. And how many rock superstars get a chance to do that at his age?

Springsteen talks, on the DVD, of the importance of "recontextualizing" folk music. Presumably, that's what he intends to do when he adds the line, "I wish I was Mr. Gates," to "Pay Me My Money Down." But overall, Springsteen seems to realize that folk music doesn't always have to be recontextualized. It's timeless.

Springsteen performs at Convention Hall in Asbury Park Monday through Wednesday. Tickets are $100. Call (201) 507-8900 or visit He will also take the Convention Hall stage Tuesday, with doors opening at 6:30 a.m., for a live broadcast on the channel 7 television show, "Good Morning America." Tickets are free, and will be available starting at 9 a.m. today via Ticket information is not available for his shows at the Tweeter Center in Camden, June 20, Madison Square Garden in New York, June 22, and the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, June 24-25.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Springsteen Gets Folky for 'Seeger Sessions'

New album, tour features covers of songs made popular by legendary singer
The Associated Press
Updated: 1:07 p.m. ET April 21, 2006

ASBURY PARK, N.J. - Bruce Springsteen, rock 'n' roll icon, stands on a cramped Jersey shore stage surrounded by 16 musicians. There's a fiddle, a banjo, a tuba, an accordion — and not a single electric guitar.

The music swells, a glorious noise, as Springsteen leans into the microphone and sings a familiar song: "He floats through the air with the greatest of ease, the daring young man on the flying trapeze."

The vintage tale of a high-flying, womanizing circus star is followed by "Poor Man," a reworking of a Blind Alfred Reed song from the 1920s. This is the music of the moment for Springsteen: folk songs from decades past as he releases an album of songs culled from the Pete Seeger catalogue.

Bob Dylan once went electric. This is Springsteen going eclectic.

"The songs have lasted 100 years, or hundreds of years, for a reason," Springsteen explains in a spartan dressing room after rehearsing with his new big band. "They were really, really well-written pieces of music.

"They have worlds in them. You just kind of go in — it's a playground. You go in, and you get to play around."

"We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" arrives Tuesday, with a tour to follow (including a trip to New Orleans for the Jazz and Heritage Festival). Springsteen, still damp with perspiration from his rehearsal, sat backstage for a 40-minute interview with The Associated Press that covered his musical past, present and future.

The new album is Springsteen's most sonically surprising since the spare "Nebraska" in 1982. Springsteen compares its variety with his second album, "The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle," where the music veered from straight rock ("Rosalita") to jazz ("New York City Serenade") to oompah ("Wild Billy's Circus Story").

Leaning back on a couch, Springsteen said he was intent on getting out more music, including a group of songs already written for the E Street Band and a follow-up to "Tracks," his collection of unreleased studio cuts. He was working on the latter before deciding to do the new record.
"After a long time, you get a lot more secure about what you're doing," Springsteen said between sips from a bottle of water. "I spend much less time making decisions. Incredibly less.

"It used to be, like, there's a line in a song that I sang a certain way. I might mull it over for three days. Maybe longer, right? Now, you know, it's very different. I realize it's not necessary. You know your craft better."

"The Seeger Sessions" featured Springsteen making an album in record time. The rock hall of famer, who in the past went years between releases, did the new album in three days. The 13 songs, plus two bonus tracks, were recorded inside the living room of a farm house at Springsteen's New Jersey home — with the horn section playing in the hall.

There were no rehearsals, no arrangements, no overdubs. Springsteen wasn't even sure if the results would become an album.

"It was just playing music," Springsteen said of the sessions. "I didn't have any intention for it. I knew that I enjoyed making this kind of music. ... It was really just purely for the joy of doing it. It was a lot of fun."

Springsteen, 56, is coming off a busy year when he toured extensively behind his Grammy-winning solo album "Devils & Dust." Last year also marked the 30th anniversary of "Born To Run," the classic album that turned him into a star.

Springsteen first connected with the Seeger songbook in 1997, when he recorded "We Shall Overcome" for a tribute album. His interest grew as he delved into the material — sturdy songs like "John Henry," "Erie Canal" and "Oh Mary, Don't You Weep."

"I wasn't aware of the vast library of music that Pete helped create and also collected," said Springsteen, who was more familiar with the work of Woody Guthrie. "Just this whole wonderful world of songwriting with all these lost voices. Great stories. Great characters."

Like Seeger, Springsteen is well-known for his role as a social activist. In 2004, Springsteen campaigned for John Kerry and criticized the Bush administration for bringing the country to war in Iraq. He's been a longtime advocate for local food banks, and played benefits for union workers, flood victims and other causes.

Seeger paid a heavy price for his beliefs. During the McCarthy era, he was summoned by the House Committee on Un-American Activities as it investigated supposed subversive influences in entertainment. He refused to cooperate and was blacklisted for the next decade.

So was releasing an album of Seeger's songs during President Bush's second term a political statement?

"I'll let somebody else sort that part of it, I guess," Springsteen said. "But a lot of 'em seem pretty applicable, you know? `Mrs. McGrath' is basically an Irish anti-war song, but it's ripped right out of the headlines everyday today."

The songs once sung by Seeger "shine a continuing light on a whole set of not just wonderful stories, but obviously a lot of social issues, the direction the country is going down," he continued. "There's still a place for a lot of that music."

Once Springsteen decided to forge ahead with the project, he called Seeger with the news. Seeger asked which songs would be on the record.

"He'd start giving me the history of each song," Springsteen said. "He actually knows about all those things. So it was an enjoyable conversation, and I hope he likes the record."

Seeger, through his manager, declined to comment on the Springsteen project.

Springsteen had no concerns about audience reaction to his foray into a new musical landscape. He expects "the adventurous part of my fans" will enjoy the album. And he considers change a requirement for any successful musician.

"Your job as an artist is to build a box, and then let people watch you escape from it," Springsteen explained. "And then they follow you to the next box, and they watch you escape from that one. ... Escape artistry is part of the survival mechanism of the job.

"If you want to do the job well, you have got to be able to escape from what you've previously built."

There's one other major difference between "Seeger Sessions" and all of Springsteen's previous work: He didn't write a single song for this project.

"A real pleasure," he said of the break from writing. "Once we put it together, it was like, `Wow. I can make records and I don't have to write anything.' There are thousands of great songs sitting out there waiting to be heard, and I know a way to act as an interpreter on these things."

© 2006

Bruce: Just Plain Folk

Veering ever further from his rock roots, Springsteen and company offer a heartfelt homage to Pete Seeger.
By Richard Cromelin, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
April 21, 2006

PETE SEEGER and Bruce Springsteen. These two monumental, quintessentially American artists have much in common, but with their vastly different musical roles and styles they aren't the most obvious bedfellows.Now they're permanently entwined thanks to Springsteen's new album, "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions." Due in stores Tuesday, this joyful, moving and somewhat frustrating collection is made up of 13 songs associated with Seeger, the folk-music patriarch.

It's joyful and moving because they're unassailable cornerstones of American music, songs that sprouted from the soil of the nation's experience and tell us how people worked, danced, loved, dealt with disaster, found a voice, inspired themselves and ultimately survived.

And it's frustrating because in choosing these 13 songs from the vast Seeger canon, Springsteen neglects what is perhaps the strongest bond between the two: a vision of music as an engine of social and political change.

Seeger, now 86 and relatively inactive, paid the price for that stance, finding himself blacklisted and marginalized in the 1950s and '60s for his leftist politics. That didn't stop him from becoming an immeasurably influential musical and cultural force.

Starting in the 1940s, Seeger began to gather and promulgate a treasure trove of traditional and topical songs that had no home in the mass media. He recorded and performed them with modest musical gifts and an abundance of earnestness and enthusiasm, lighting the fuse for the folk music boom of the 1960s.

While Seeger wrote few songs and relied on a simple banjo strum and the joined voices of his audience, Springsteen came along in the 1970s as the rock 'n' roll poet, addressing the promise and the pitfalls of American life in his torrents of words, carried at first on the liberating rock power of his E Street Band, later in more tempered and varied frameworks.

But they find common ground in this album, which illuminates the Seeger legacy for a wider audience while further distancing Springsteen from his rock-icon identity of the 1970s and '80s.Clearly, he's not feeling compelled to keep straight-ahead rock with the E Street Band in the regular rotation. His last album, 2005's "Devils & Dust," was a muted, literary work, a variation on the tradition of his stark solo projects "Nebraska" and "The Ghost of Tom Joad." His last album with the E Street Band was the reflective post-9/11 work, "The Rising," in 2002. He's pretty much consigned the rock 'n' roll to periodic live albums.

"The Seeger Sessions" is Springsteen's first album without his own songs, and for the occasion he's concocted an irresistible hybrid of American music forms. Guitars, banjo, fiddles, horns, organ, accordion, piano, drums, washboard and more pack these arrangements, but the music always breathes easily, with wood, wind and skin gathering into rich, organic shapes.

A Southern feel asserts itself in the Dixieland brass, and intentional or not, a subliminal New Orleans presence pervades the album in the textures and syncopations (Springsteen will give the music its live debut at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on April 30, with a Greek Theatre date in Los Angeles on June 5).

The playing is casually virtuosic, a sort of acoustic counterpart to the loose-limbed precision the E Street Band brings to his rock. You could call it back-porch music, though you'd need a big porch to hold all these players. (The DVD portion of this Dual Disc release offers documentation of the sessions, with the musicians jostling for space in the living room of Springsteen's farmhouse.)

The spontaneity is infectious. This is one-take recording, and you can hear Springsteen cueing the horn section here, calling out a key change there, fumbling the lyric in "John Henry" and plowing right ahead.

These might be folk songs, but there's no holding back on the upbeat tunes, and he matches the raucous playing with vocals full of all-out raspy intensity. And the musicians easily switch to a tone of evocative elegance on the slower songs.

If the music has the feel of something that came together completely naturally, the selection of material is more problematic.There's a universe of Seeger-linked songs, and an infinity of statements to be made from them, and Springsteen has played it pretty basic with his repertoire here, choosing some bedrock material, from grade-school songbook staples such as "Shenandoah" and "Erie Canal" to the civil rights anthems "We Shall Overcome" and "Eyes on the Prize." There are minstrel songs ("Old Dan Tucker"), spirituals ("Jacob's Ladder") and mythic tales ("Jesse James," "John Henry").

There's no way that such a collection can be regarded as slight, but Springsteen doesn't put out albums with no thought to what they say about the times, and by creating a broadly inspirational panorama he's declined the opportunity to add his voice to the rising chorus of pop music that's commenting directly on current events. There are plenty of confrontational songs in the Seeger songbook that would do the job, from the union-organizing challenge "Which Side Are You On?" to the Vietnam allegory "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy."

Maybe he's biding his time after the demanding commentary of his last two albums, taking a breather to enjoy the bandstand. Here's hoping the bandwagon doesn't leave without him.

*Bruce Springsteen"We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions" (Columbia)* * * 1/2

Bruce Springsteen: The Next Chapter

Bruce Springsteen hits the road once morewith a new CD and a whole new sound
The New York Daily News
April 23, 2006

A few dozen yards from the deserted Asbury Park boardwalk, where a cold April wind is fighting a warm April sun, Bruce Springsteen steps to the microphone inside an empty Convention Hall and blasts into "This Hard Land," a classic Springsteen tale of desolation meeting defiance.

"Hey there mister Can you tell me what happened To the seeds I've sown. ..."

"This Hard Land" isn't a new song. It was bumped off his 1984 "Born in the USA" album and spent a decade on bootlegs before he released it in 1995.

Whatever its history, the song has never sounded like this.

The opening has a country lilt, reinforced when the banjo, fiddles and pedal steel kick in. But it's not exactly a country song. It's more like something out of a Saturday night dance party.
"Once the solos start," he tells the band near the end, "we gotta give it up to the rhythm."

His band can do that, even though it's very different from his E Street Band. This is a 17-piece outfit full of strings and horns. It does include familiar faces like Soozie Tyrell and Springsteen's wife, Patti Scialfa, who also play a big role in working out the vocal harmonies.

Its musical mission is country, folk, gospel, bluegrass, activist anthems, New Orleans jazz, old-style ballads, a touch of blues and whatever else peeks in. After rehearsal and between a few bites of takeout, Springsteen says it's basically "all the beats and styles I don't use with E Street, which is my rock band."

He's doing this now, some suggest, because he has to.

"Bruce makes records that reflect the time in America in which he makes them," says Meg Griffin, a longtime NYC radio host now at Sirius Satellite. "An artist who does not travel new roads experiences creative death, and like all the great ones from Van Gogh to Hendrix, Bruce has the courage to explore his soul."

He also does it because he can.

"I have no rules left," says Springsteen, matter of factly. "I don't have to get on the radio. It's wide open for me. The singer-songwriters I admire - Dylan, Neil Young, Woody Guthrie - move forward all the time."

As does he - a rocker who stepped away for 1982's dark and brilliant "Nebraska," 1995's stark "Ghost of Tom Joad" and 2005's pensive "Devils & Dust."

This time it's "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions," which is released Tuesday and features 13 songs recorded by, among many others, Pete Seeger.

Some are well-known, like the spiritual "Oh Mary Don't You Weep" and the folk ballad "John Henry," but Springsteen says familiarity wasn't his criterion.

"I looked for characters I knew," he says. "I'd say, okay, in 'Erie Canal,' I know that guy. I know this guy. I heard 'Oh Mary' and I thought, I wrote like that in 'Promised Land.'"

Several songs have spiritual themes, he notes, "and I've written a lot of religious music."
In the folk tradition, he also added touches of his own to traditional songs. The merchant seaman's lament "Pay Me My Money Down" is now a wild workout that includes the line:

"I wish that I was Mr. Gates They'd haul my money in in crates. ..."

So "The Seeger Sessions" is no exercise in musicology. It's personal. "It returns me to some of the music I was doing when I started recording," he says. "My second album had an accordion, a tuba, jazz sounds, circus sounds. When we streamlined E Street into more of a rock band, we did less of that. So it's an area I like getting back to."

He's also taking it on the road, with rehearsal shows tomorrow through Wednesday at Convention Hall, then three weeks in Europe. Back home, he starts in Boston May 27 and comes to Madison Square Garden June 22 and the PNC Bank Center, Holmdel, N.J., June 24-25.
"This show is going to be fun," he says, because the record was already fun. "We did it in three days, all live, no overdubs."

That's a big step for a notorious perfectionist.

"The sense of raggediness in this music is important," says Springsteen. "You want to keep the raunchiness of the characters, because they were raunchy. They lived in a raunchy time.
"Part of this music is the wide elbow room you feel inside it. I sometimes tell the band, 'If this gets any better, it'll be worse.'"

Another part of his mission now is figuring out which of his own songs fit the tour's rhythm.
"Cadillac Ranch" requires little reworking, but "Open All Night" has become a foot-stomper and "Johnny 99" is now a funk number. Then there's "Adam Raised a Cain."

"It's bluegrass, like from 40 years ago," says Springsteen. "Those guys loved biblical and religious imagery, and they could easily have done 'Adam.'"

The broader challenge, he says, is that "unlike E Street, this band has no previous material. My 30 years of previous songs, we're not playing any of that. I have this long-standing arsenal and all of it is gone."

He laughs. He likes this. Not all of his fans agree.

"I just have no interest," says Mark Ashkinos, a fan since the '70s. "I'm a rocker. When he rocks with 'Where the Bands Are' or 'Mary's Place,' I'll pay attention again."
Springsteen says he will be back - at some point.

"I love playing with E Street," he says. "I always will. I have a bookful of new songs sitting there to play with E Street."

But not yet. "I have a very good and really sizable core audience that's adventurous," he says. "It's not as large as the audience with E Street, but it's a good size and I'm interested in taking them on an adventure."

In Europe, that's a go: Fans snapped up every ticket in minutes. Back home, there may be some hesitation, as this week's Asbury Park shows were not his usual instant sellouts.

He seems confident word will soon get out that these shows are just a plain good old time.
"There will be no seats on the floor," he says. "It's rowdy music. I'm hoping my rock fans will respond to that part."

And no, the man who sang for presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry in 2004 isn't throwing a show without a message.

"I'm always looking for topical things in songs," he says. "Not rhetoric or demagoguery, but broader implications, like in 'Oh Mary' or 'Eye on the Prize.'

" 'My Oklahoma Home' jokes about this guy's woman being carried away by a twister. It's light. But it's really a song about losing everything - and in New Orleans today we have our biggest disaster since the Dust Bowl. That's the way our lives tie into old folk music. It's why songs like this last."

"I guess if you think you'll wake up and walk around tomorrow, you're an optimist," he says, after a brief pause. "And I sing about hope. But I've also played the other end heavily.

"A song like 'Promised Land' has very sharp internal edges. The verses are blues and the chorus is gospel. The blues is like you feel something big pressing down, a real perniciousness, and then you look for something to lift the weight. There's so much brinksmanship. That's how the world feels so often."

Springsteen's contribution to lifting this burden, the reason he still matters even to people who wish he'd play "Jungleland," is music, particularly live music.

So, at the age of 56 and long past the point where he needs the money, he keeps doing it, which makes especially intriguing another verse he adds to "Pay Me My Money Down":

"If I were born a rich man's son I'd sit on the river and watch it run ..."

Is that going to happen?

"I'd love to watch the river run," he says. "My problem is that I'm not very good at sitting still. My children have taught me to be a little better at it. But I tend to like to keep moving."
And maybe, on the way, keeping track of the seeds he has sown.

Originally published on April 23, 2006

Bruce Springsteen: Born to Strum

The New York Times
Published: April 16, 2006

Asbury Park, N.J. - ON a bright, brisk April afternoon in one of America's most famous faded seaside resorts, the sycamores are budding and the dogwoods are in bloom. New construction near the shore points to the town's long-rumored revitalization. Yet rows of boarded-up homes, along with the crumbling remains of the old Metropolitan Hotel and the Baronet Theater, suggest that any turnaround is still a ways off.

Over on Ocean Avenue, a patron sits with a lunchtime shot and beer in the Wonder Bar, which advertises a dance party tonight with DJ Jersey Joe. Down the block is the Stone Pony, the nightclub where Bruce Springsteen, the Jersey Shore's world-famous son, made his name. Among other acts, its marquee advertises a show by Nils Lofgren, guitarist for Mr. Springsteen's longtime collaborators, the E Street Band.

Across the street, straddling the boardwalk, is the Convention Hall-Paramount Theater complex, a majestic structure designed in the 1920's by Warren & Wetmore, the architects of Grand Central Terminal. Inside the Paramount -- which opened in 1930 with a show featuring the Marx Brothers, and which shows its age -- Mr. Springsteen, 56, is rehearsing new songs with a new band.

''Do we have an intro on this? No?'' Mr. Springsteen yells to the 17 players surrounding him onstage. ''Okay one-two-three-four!'' The band lurches -- no other word will do -- into ''John Henry,'' the folk standard about a heroic hammer-wielding railroad worker that dates to the 19th century and has remained a potent American myth.

Mr. Springsteen lifts one leg, scrunches up his face and hollers into his microphone. Behind him the fiddles of Sam Bardfeld and Soozie Tyrell conjure Texas swing, while Charles Giordano's accordion adds a Cajun-zydeco feel and the brass section (with members of the Miami Horns, longtime E Street associates) kick in some Dixieland braying. Other band members clap and shout; their boss hammers away on a battered acoustic guitar.

The rehearsal includes versions of other folk standards -- the old labor song ''Pay Me My Money Down,'' the spirituals ''O Mary Don't You Weep'' and ''Eyes on the Prize,'' the Irish war ballad ''Mrs. McGrath'' -- whose political weight is upstaged by their rousing joie de vivre. It also features radically revamped versions of Mr. Springsteen's ''Johnny 99'' and ''Open All Night'' from his 1981 album ''Nebraska.'' The band, which includes Mr. Springsteen's wife, Patti Scialfa, and Marc Anthony Thompson (who records as Chocolate Genius), makes a huge, glorious noise, full of tugging cross-rhythms and wayward notes. Coffeehouse folk music it ain't -- sports arena folk is more like it.

The traditional numbers will appear on Mr. Springsteen's new record, ''We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,'' a collection of songs popularized by the venerable folk singer Pete Seeger, to be released April 25. Mr. Springsteen and this band begin a European tour in early May, to be followed by American dates in May and June. He plans to introduce the material at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on April 30.

If you hear a groan off in the distance, it may be a portion of Mr. Springsteen's fan base greeting the news of his second consecutive project forsaking his well-known brand of rock, along with the E Street Band. Since his last album with the band, ''The Rising,'' in 2002, he has released a mostly acoustic solo album, last year's ''Devils & Dust,'' and an expanded reissue of his 1975 classic ''Born to Run.''

Since much of the material on ''Devils & Dust'' was written and recorded years ago, and since ''The Seeger Sessions'' is his first all-covers collection, some fans wonder not simply about the future of the E Street Band, but also if the songwriter may be running low on fuel.

''Nah, I write all the time,'' Mr. Springsteen said reassuringly, leaning back on a cream-colored couch in one of the Paramount's small, slightly grimy dressing rooms after the day's rehearsals were done. ''The stuff on 'Devils & Dust' -- I just liked those songs and didn't want to see them get lost. I have an E Street Band record that I have a lot of stuff written for. I'm just waiting for the right time to do it.''

Sporting a beatnik-style soul patch under his lower lip and with a remarkable lack of gray in his hair, Mr. Springsteen looked vigorous and pumped from his afternoon's work. He wore his usual uniform of rumpled shirt -- top buttons undone, sleeves rolled up -- jeans, boots, small hoops in both ears and macramé bracelets circling his left wrist. Holding a large bottle of Fiji water in his lap, he occasionally stared off toward some distant point during an animated hourlong conversation, searching for a word, recalling old times in the neighborhood or offering his ideas about folk music.

''The Seeger Sessions'' came about, he explained, from a clutch of songs he recorded in 1997 for a Pete Seeger tribute album titled ''Where Have All the Flowers Gone,'' released on the Appleseed label. After his ''Devils & Dust'' tour last year, he intended to take a break and to release a follow-up to ''Tracks,'' a 1998 four-disc set of rare odds and ends. He sent a bunch of recordings to his longtime manager, Jon Landau, and they both agreed there was something special in the first Seeger session.

''Whenever I'd get tired of what I was working on, I'd go back to it,'' the singer said of the session tape, which included ''Jesse James,'' ''My Oklahoma Home,'' ''Pretty Boy Floyd'' and the only song ultimately used for the ''Flowers'' tribute, ''We Shall Overcome.'' ''Listening to it was a relief, you know? It was just people playing. It sounded like fun.''

The idea for ''Tracks Volume 2'' was shelved, and seven years after the first Seeger session, Mr. Springsteen reconvened the same musicians to record again in the same setting: the living room of his farmhouse in Rumson, N.J. Microphones were set up, candles were lighted, alcoholic beverages were poured. It was quite a crowd. The horn section had to be relegated to the hall. (A DVD feature included with ''The Seeger Sessions'' shows the band at work and play; Mr. Springsteen in particular seems to have imbibed a bit.)

''It allowed me to go back to some of the musical eclecticness I enjoyed in my early days and just be musical,'' he said enthusiastically. ''There's jazz in there. Swing. Sam brings this Eastern European thing; Soozie's a totally down-home country sound. 'Jacob's Ladder' has this Kansas City-Dixieland horn thing on top of the gospel. There's no straight two-and-four, no rock tempos. This band rolls.''

Mr. Springsteen also spoke about the difficulty of tackling songs that have accrued tremendous cultural weight, like the CD's title track, a civil rights anthem in the 60's.

''When the idea came up to do 'We Shall Overcome,' I was like, 'I can't do that,' '' he said. ''Everyone knows that song as an icon. But what was it before it became that? So I went back and looked and realized: 'Oh, this is a prayer. I can do that. I know how to pray.'

''The approach to the song is, I start with this very alienated person, because that's me,'' he said, laughing. ''That never changes. And the guy can barely sing it -- he can barely believe it. But as he moves into it, and people start singing with him, he finds his place in the song, in history, and that alienation eases.''

One thing Mr. Springsteen seemed reluctant to address, except in the abstract, was the political side to the material on ''The Seeger Sessions.'' Mr. Seeger, who turns 87 next month, is of course a hero of the left, a musician, songwriter and song collector-historian who helped spur the politically tinged folk music revival of the 50's and 60's. He spoke out against the Vietnam War and has remained an activist, notably on environmental issues.

''That's there,'' Mr. Springsteen said of the political element. ''But I approached the entire thing musically. I didn't come to it with any ideological perspective, or idea of showing this or that. I just took the songs that I liked from Pete's records.''

Mr. Seeger, who declined to be interviewed, is currently busy completing an expanded edition of his autobiographical songbook ''Where Have All the Flowers Gone,'' first published in 1993. But while he was not involved in Mr. Springsteen's project, he said he was happy to hear about it.

Mr. Springsteen's own political involvement has occurred in fits and starts. He was thrust into the political spotlight in 1984 when Ronald Reagan, in his re-election campaign, tried hitching a ride on the popularity of Mr. Springsteen's huge hit ''Born in the U.S.A.'' -- a complex song about America's treatment of Vietnam veterans whose simple chorus lent itself to easy jingoism. More recently, he wrote the song ''American Skin (41 Shots)'' about the controversial shooting of Amadou Diallo by New York City police officers, and lent his support to John Kerry's presidential bid, moves that displeased some fans.

While Mr. Springsteen claims to have approached the material on ''The Seeger Sessions'' without a political agenda, he acknowledges that context can color things, and suggests that ideology is in the ear of the beholder. ''What makes these songs vital, and catch fire now,'' he said, ''is all the connections you're making, in your head, to this moment.''

Indeed. ''Mrs. McGrath,'' a mother's lament for her son who lost his legs on the battlefield, carries powerful resonance in the era of Cindy Sheehan. And one can only imagine how the boisterous Mardi Gras version of ''Pay Me My Money Down'' will go over at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in front of thousands of locals still awaiting government relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

There were many more questions worth asking Mr. Springsteen. But his associates were pounding on the dressing room door. There was plenty of work to do before their day was done.

So, to cut to the chase: Has he been following this season of HBO's New Jersey gangster drama, ''The Sopranos,'' in which the guitarist Steve Van Zandt -- Mr. Springsteen's right-hand man in the E Street Band -- plays Silvio Dante, right-hand man to the mob boss Tony Soprano?

''You know, I missed the last two episodes, what with working on all this, but someone told me Stevie's been having aspirations to boss-dom,'' said the artist still known to fans as the Boss, with a grin. ''I got to see this!''