Well, what can you say about Bruce Springsteen that hasn't been said?
Looking past his iconic status, massive success and legendary live performances, I guess the only thing I can say that really matters is that he is simply a great damn songwriter. For us songwriters that is ultimately the only thing that counts.
Back in 1997, I was in Austin producing one of the Derailers records (a great Bakersfield styled country-rock band) when Cheryl Pawelski asked me to contribute a performance to a Bruce Springsteen tribute she was producing for Capitol Records. I was hesitant at first because Bruce Springsteen's recordings of his own songs are pretty much THE definitive versions and I didn't think I could possibly bring anything new or unique to any of his songs. Cheryl was gently persistent though and eventually I agreed to record a little known Springsteen song called "Seeds."
Springsteen's recording of "Seeds" was only issued on one of his live records (as far as I know - maybe all you Springsteen experts know different) and it wasn't anywhere near as well known as most of his material. That made me feel a bit more comfortable doing it because it was a song I could easily bend and shape to fit my own style. Springsteen's version is sort of a loud rocker while my approach was to make into a swampy blues song. I also liked the lyrics that tell one side story of what was going on down in southeast Texas during the rough times of the 1980's. Back then a lot of people ventured down to Houston and similar oil towns looking for work and were often disappointed by what they found. If that isn't a good subject for a blues song I don't what is.
A recording session (at Arlyn Studios with the superb engineer Stewart Sullivan twisting the dials) was quickly planned around the Derailers sessions and I gathered some of my favorite musicians in Austin to cut the track. Joining me for the first time in the studio was future Guilty Men guitarist, Chris Miller, on the snaky lap steel while future Guilty Women bassist, the extraordinary Sarah Brown, and harmonica virtuoso Ted Roddy added their great talents. Sadly, it was my last recording session with an old friend, the late Donald Lindley, on drums. Donald played drums on my Blue Boulevard and Museum of Heart albums and you may know him from his memorable work with Lucinda Williams, Buddy Miller, Joe Ely and Jim Lauderdale, among others. Like so many other of my friends who've now moved on, I miss Donald very much.
We only had a couple of hours of studio time to record "Seeds" so we didn't have the luxury of fretting about our arrangement or performance too much. We just gathered in a circle in the studio, played it through once for rehearsal and then cut it live in one take. Some songwriters don't mind when someone changes one of their songs while other songwriters can get a little upset if too much liberty is taken with their material. I don't know if Bruce Springsteen ever heard our version of "Seeds" but I hope that he'd kind of dig it. I hope that you dig it too.
- Dave Alvin, October 27, 2008