ARTIST: Billy Bragg & Wilco
TITLE: Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions
YEAR RELEASED: Compilation
CHART ACTION: Volume 1: #34 US, #90 UK; Volume 2: #61 US, #88 UK
SINGLES: Way Down Yonder in the Minor Key (#118 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you have these, yes, because you played these CDs a lot.
LINEUP: Billy Bragg, Jay Bennett, Ken Coomer, Bob Egan, John Stirratt, Jeff Tweedy, Corey Harris, Natalie Merchant, Peter Yanowitz, Eliza Carthy
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A box set of the the first two Mermaid Avenue volumes, plus outtakes. All you need from these historic sessions.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It was a one-of-a-kind project. Woody Guthrie had scads of poems and writings that weren’t put to music except for some cryptic notations on some of the notebooks. Guthrie’s daughter, wanted these put to music and recorded, but in a contemporary style and not as an imitation of her father.
Nora Guthrie contacted Billy Bragg, who contacted Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, and they came together and set about on the undertaking. Drafting some extra help, including Natalie Merchant, on some tracks. They compiled several cuts of the lyrics best fit (and deemed most complete) for adaptation, and released two full CD’s of their work.
There was other material in the can, and so for Guthrie’s 100th birthday, Nora Guthrie and the artists compiled a total collection of the albums with an extra disc of outtakes.
It’s wonderful. Bragg and Wilco put so much heart and soul into the lyrics and music. It makes Woody Guthrie come to life once again. I’d definitely recommend this to any fan of anyone involved: Guthrie, Bragg, Wilco, or even folk and folk rock in general.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: There’s a documentary called Man in the Sand about this collaboration.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.
GRADE: A: You can slot this right next to your Bragg, Wilco or Guthrie collections and it would fit right in.