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Billy Bragg and Wilco

Mermaid Avenue Volume II

Release Date: 05.30.00
Record label: Elektra
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.


The Late, Great, Woody Guthrie - Reincarnated Again
by: bill aicher

Woody Guthrie penned lyrics for literally thousands of songs, many of which never saw the light of day. That is, until now. A few years back, Guthrie's daughter Nora came to Billy Bragg and asked him if he would put her father's words to music. You see, Guthrie never knew how to write music, so the melodies were lost. Nora felt Bragg's protest songs were the closest anyone had ever been to her father, and that he would be the one to do her father justice. So, in 1998 Mermaid Avenue was released with alt.country band Wilco acting as Bragg's backup band. The collaboration went on to enjoy enormous praise from critics and fans alike, and was on most top ten lists of that year.

Now in 2000 Billy Bragg and Wilco have teamed up once again to give us more Guthrie. And once again, they did a magnificent job. Most of the songs on the new album are leftovers from the original Mermaid Avenue sessions, while a few were recorded by Wilco back at their home. Thank God they decided to release these tracks, instead of burying them as unreleased tracks.

Bragg delivers most of the vocals again, and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy delivers a few as well, including "Mountain Bed," the most heartwarming song on the album. Bragg's vocals bring about the gruffness felt in Guthrie's lyrics, as well as the plain fun Guthrie had at times. "Feed of Man" features Bragg's gruff style on one of Gurthrie's protest songs, but "My Flying Saucer" features Guthrie's fun side. Also, once again Natalie Merchant offers her singing talent, this time on "I Was Born;" a simple children's song set to acoustic guitar.

This is the album every fan of Mermaid Avenue prayed would happen. It is not often that a sequel album comes close to the first album. It is even less often that a sequel is on par with the first, especially when the first one was a classic.

Here's to the continuance of the Mermaid Avenue series. Like I said, Guthrie penned thousands of songs - so Bragg and Wilco have plenty of material left to take care of.