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January 28, 2007

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Bobby

The Seeger Sessions Band was invited back to perform during parties at Springsteen's New Jersey farm, where the group also reconvened for additional recording sessions in 2005 and earlier this year.

"It was a carnival ride, the sound of surprise and the pure joy of playing," Springsteen writes in the "We Shall Overcome" album's liner notes. "It was a way back and forward to the informality, the freeness and the eclecticism of my earliest music and then some."

"Bruce is known for his attention to detail, especially when it comes to a lot of his earlier work," Eagle said.

Remember, we're talking about the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who spent six months in a studio obsessing over "Born to Run" -- the song alone, not the entire 1975 landmark album of the same title.

"I think he felt so liberated in the context of just sitting around and playing and singing, as if we were on a back porch or something," Eagle said.

"I didn't know the man, but I could sense Bruce was having fun," Giordano said. "We all had such a good time.

"There was no overthinking anything. We played a song two or three times, then went on to the next one. It was very natural."

On the road, they've tried to stay true to the spontaneity of the project's origins. In Columbus, the encore included a surprise cover of the Band's rambunctious "Rag Mama Rag."

"Bruce is so adept at leading us down roads we didn't know we could go down, roads that by rights should have big DO NOT ENTER signs on them," Eagle said.

"We bust those signs down," Giordano said. "In addition to his talents as a singer, songwriter and performer, Bruce is a great bandleader. He knows how to get you from point A to point B, which might be different from how you did it last night."

"At the last show we did, in Washington, D.C., we began to end Open All Night' the way we usually do," Eagle said. "All of a sudden, Bruce turned to us -- and there are a lot of us, so you have to have a fair field of vision -- and called out a chord, then another, then another, then another. When you put them together, we transitioned seamlessly to Pay Me My Money Down.' But we never rehearsed it.

"The looseness is infectious. Bruce has no qualms about sharing it with us and enjoying it."

Springsteen certainly seemed to be having a good time onstage, skipping around and belting out songs with all the gusto he could muster.

"This is one of my hits from 1843," he said jokingly before launching into "Old Dan Tucker," a giddy toe-tapper.

Throughout the evening, he exhorted fans to raise their voices and join in the fun. During "Erie Canal," which he introduced as "a love song to a mule," Springsteen rallied the crowd of 3,000 amateur backing singers with some good-natured goading:

"Here we go... You're getting there... It's pathetic, but we'll keep going!"

Sure, he could draw bigger audiences if he hit the road again with the E Street Band and coasted through his greatest hits. At this point in his career, however, Springsteen apparently would rather challenge himself, if not his fan base.

"Bruce has said it's his job as an artist to build himself a box, then find a way to climb out of it," Eagle said. "Trying different things is part of what keeps him alive and keeps him moving forward." www.foryoubruce.com

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