I wasn’t aware of it previously. But last week, I discovered that Joan Osborne, backed by the San Francisco-based band The Waybacks and guests such as Sam Bush, Jason Crosby and Jim Lauderdale performed Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA album in its entirety at the 2015 Merlefest festival in Wilkesboro, N.C., and released it in album form in 2016, as Hillside Album Hour 2015: Back in the USA.
The album is officially credited to The Waybacks & Friends featuring Joan Osborne. And it’s pretty sensational: Not a loose jam session, but a set in which each song gets its own distinctive arrangement, capped by Osborne’s passionate vocals.
There are also some unexpected detours along the way, such as segues into Edwin Starr’s “War” during “Cover Me” and The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” in “Darlington County.” “No Surrender” is performed as a mashup with “Born to Run,” and parts of “I’m Going Down” (a duet with Lauderdale) are arranged to sound like The Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” “Dancing in the Dark” features elements of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” as well as a reprise of “Born in the USA.”
“I always wanted to be Bruce Springsteen,” Osborne says after “I’m on Fire.” (She will perform at the South Orange Performing Arts Center on Nov. 12, incidentally.)
The Waybacks have a tradition of playing full albums by other artists at Merlefest, and have done so, in other years, with classics such as Led Zeppelin II, The Allman Brothers Band’s Eat a Peach and The Beatles’ Abbey Road.
You can listen all the tracks, in the original Born in the USA album order, below. Also, I’ve included four concert videos below them.
“No Surrender” and “Bobby Jean”
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