> Folk Music > Records > Billy Bragg & Wilco: Mermaid Avenue

Billy Bragg & Wilco: Mermaid Avenue

Mermaid Avenue (Elektra 7559 62204 2)

Mermaid Avenue
Songs by Woody Guthrie
Billy Bragg & Wilco

Elektra 7559 62204 2 (CD, USA, 1998)

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Produced by Wilco and Billy Bragg with Grant Showbiz;
Engineered by Jerry Boys

Musicians

Jay Bennett, electric bass, slide and acoustic guitar, dulcimer, bouzouki, banjo, piano, clavinet, Farsifa organ, Hammond B3 organ, melodica, drums, backing vocals;
Billy Bragg, vocals, acoustic guitar, bouzouki, banjo;
Natalie Merchant, vocals, backing vocals;
Eliza Carthy, violin [2, 3];
Elisabeth Steen, accordion;
John Stirrat, electric and acoustic bass, piano, Hammond B3, backing vocals;
Jeff Tweedy, vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, harmonica;
Corey Harrs, lap steel guitar;
Bob Egan, slide guitar;
Ken Coomer, drums, percussion;
Peter Yanowitz, chorus drums

Tracks

  1. Walt Whitmans's Niece (3.53)
  2. California Stars (4.57)
  3. Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key (4.06)
  4. Birds and Ships (2.13)
  5. Hoodoo Voodoo (3.12)
  6. She Came Along Me (3.26)
  7. At my Window Sad and Lonely (3.27)
  8. Ingrid Bergman (1.50)
  9. Christ for President (2.39)
  10. I Guess I Planted (3.32)
  11. One By One (3.22)
  12. Eisler on the Go (2.56)
  13. Hesitating Beauty (3.04)
  14. Another Man's Done Gone (1.34)
  15. The Unwelcome Guest (5.09)

All words by Woody Guthrie

Sleeve Notes by Billy Bragg

Mermaid Avenue is the name of the street in Coney Island, Brooklyn, that was home to Woody Guthrie and his wife Marjorie and their kids in the years that followed World War II. Here he daydreamed about making love to Ingrid Bergman on the slopes of an Italian volcano and wondered himself what he would do if, like fellow left-wing songwriter Hanns Eisler, he was called before the House Committee of Un-American Activities. And here he wrote songs, hundereds of them. Nonsense songs for his kids like Hoodoo Voodoo, visions of his own Oklahoma childhood like Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key, mid-century love songs like Hesitating Beauty and works of personal self-exploration like Another Man's Done Gone that make him prime candidate as the first in a long line of singer-songwriters.

Despite the fact that his recording career was more or less over by 1947, he carried on writing songs until he became too ill to hold a pencil. The last years of his life were spent in Brooklyn State Hospital and when he died in 1967, the tunes that he had dreamt up for these hundreds of unrecorded songs, tunes he had carried in his head all his life, were lost forever.

Woody's daughter Nora Guthrie approached me in the spring of 1995 with the idea of writing some new music to accompany these lost songs. She runs the Woody Guthrie Archive in New York City and offered me access to over a thousand complete lyrics of her father's that are in her care. Handwritten or typed, often bearing the date and place where they were written and sometimes accompanied by an insight into the process at work, they offer us a broader picture of a man who over the past sixty years has been vilified by the American Right whilst simultaneously being canonized by the American Left.

In her original letter to me, Nora talked of breaking the mould, of working with her father to give his words a new sound and a new context. The result is not a tribute album but a collaboration between Woody Guthrie and a new generation of Songwriters who until now had only glimpsed him fleetingly, over the shoulders ob Bob Dylan oder somewhere in the distance of a Bruce Springsteen song.

[Billy Bragg, London 1998]

> Folk Music > Records > Billy Bragg & Wilco: Mermaid Avenue Vol. II

Billy Bragg & Wilco: Mermaid Avenue Vol. II

Mermaid Avenue Vol. II (Elektra 7559 62522 2)

Mermaid Avenue Vol. II
Songs by Woody Guthrie
Billy Bragg & Wilco

Elektra 7559 62522 2 (CD, USA, 2000)

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Produced by Wilco and Billy Bragg with Grant Showbiz;
Engineered by Jerry Boys

Musicians

Jay Bennett, pianos, electric guitar, baritone guitar, 12-string acoustic slide guitars, Leslie guitar, nylon-string guitar, banjo, mandolin, electric sitars, Hammond B3 organ, Farsifa organ, backing vocals, shakers, saw, claps;
Billy Bragg, vocals, acoustic guitar, resonator guitar;
John Stirrat, electric bass, bass, upright bass, double bass, Nashville guitar, backing vocals, claps;
Jeff Tweedy, vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, slide baritone guitar, mandolin, Mellotrons, cabassa, claps;
Bob Egan, resonator slide guitar;
Corey Harris, vocals, acoustic guitar;
Natalie Merchant, vocals [5];
Eliza Carthy, violin [12];
Ken Coomer, tape box, gas heater and kick drum, tambourine, drums, percussion, backing vocals;
Mike Henry, backing vocals

Tracks

  1. Airline to Heaven (4.50)
  2. My Flying Saucer (1.45)
  3. Feed of Man (4.08)
  4. Hot Rod Hotel (3.17)
  5. I Was Born (1.50)
  6. Secret of the Sea (2.42)
  7. Stetson Kennedy (2.39)
  8. Remember the Mountain Bed (6.26)
  9. Blood of the Lamb (4.16)
  10. Against Th' Law (3.03)
  11. All You Fascists (2.43)
  12. Joe Dimaggio Done It Again (2.31)
  13. Meanest Man (3.46)
  14. Black Wind Blowing (3.00)
  15. Someday Some Morning Sometime (2.51)

All words by Woody Guthrie

Sleeve Notes by Billy Bragg

Woody Guthrie was the first alternative musician. While Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley were busy peddling escapism for the masses, Woody was out there writing songs from a different point of view with a lyrical poetry that captured the awesome majesty of America's scenery and the dry as dust humor of its working folks. He travelled the country with a newsman's eye for a story and a collector's ear for a song. And he brought it all back home to Coney Island, where, in the house on Mermaid Avenue, he sat writing songs about hot rod hotels where he'd worked as a boy, and about the secrets of the sea that he'd fathomed during long, tense voyages on Atlantic convoys as a merchant seaman in World War II. Although at times he reached back to the Bible stories for inspiration, these song also place Woody firmly in our modern world - we can imagine him watching Joe DiMaggio on TV in Brooklyn, while flying saucers whizz by his open window.

These lyrics are but a fragment of a great creative outpouring that occurred in the years after World War II. Woody was slowly being incapacitated by the Huntington's Disease that would eventually kill him. He knew that time was running out and yet he still had so much to say. When he died, the music he had written for these songs died with him. The Woody Guthrie Archive contains over two thousand more complete lyrics of songs he wrote during this period. Until that work has been appreciated, Woody Guthrie still has so much to say to us.

[Billy Bragg, London 1998]

> Folk Music > Records > Billy Bragg & Wilco: Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Session

Billy Bragg & Wilco: Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Session

Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Session (Nonesuch 7559 79626 0)

Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Session
Songs by Woody Guthrie
Billy Bragg & Wilco

Nonesuch Records 7559 79626 0 (3 CD + DVD, USA, 2012)

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Produced by Wilco and Billy Bragg with Grant Showbiz
Engineered by Jerry Boys

See above for details of CDs 1 and 2

Musicians on CD 3

Jay Bennett, piano, keyboards, organ, banjo, melodica, mandolin, harmonica, acoustic guitar, backing vocals;
Billy Bragg, vocals, acoustic guitar, resonator guitar, electric guitar, tenor banjo, mandolin;
Ken Coomer, drums, percussion, tambourine, whistle;
Bob Egan, pedal steel guitar;
Corey Harris, lap steel guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals;
John Stirrat, bass guitar;
Jeff Tweedy, acoustic guitar, 12-string electric guitar, vocals;
Eliza Carthy, violin [4, 8, 13];
Ben Ivitsky, viola [4, 13];
Mikael Jorgensen, Hammond B3, Leslie Cap;
Nels Cline, lap steel guitar;
Patrick Sansone, harpsichord

Tracks on CD 3

  1. Bugeye Jim (3.18)
  2. When the Roses Bloom Again (4.11)
  3. Gotta Work (2.16)
  4. My Thirty Thousand (2.40)
  5. Ought to Be Satisfied Now (3.34)
  6. Listening to the Wind That Blows (5.07)
  7. Go Down to the Water (4.36)
  8. Chain of Broken Hearts (3.31)
  9. Jailcell Blues (2.27)
  10. Don't You Marry (3.18)
  11. Give Me a Nail (1.42)
  12. The Jolly Banker (3.31)
  13. Union Prayer (4.12)
  14. Be Kind to the Boy on the Road (3.46)
  15. Ain't Gonna Grieve (4.52)
  16. Tea Bag Blues (4.03)
  17. I'm Out to Get (3.58)

All words by Woody Guthrie