ALLY M. (clarysage) from VANCOUVER, WA Reviewed on 10/4/2006...
You cant go wrong with this offering of Billy Bragg's. If you love roots/americana music is is wonderful.
4.5 Stars.... Masterful Mix of Guthrie Lyrics and New Music
Paul Allaer | Cincinnati | 05/10/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Nora Guthrie, Woody's daughter, thought it might be fun to have new music set to Woody's "lost songs" (lyrics to which Woody had music set in his head, but he never published the music). Billy Bragg and Wilco may make a curious, or at least not a very obvious, choice for the task, but boy, are they up for it!"Mermaid Avenue" (15 tracks, 49 min.) is a true collaboration between the artists. Some songs find Wilco's Jeff Tweedy at lead vocal, Bragg on others. Music on some tracks is written by Bragg, others by Tweedy/Bennett, yet others by Bragg/Wilco. While I'm a huge Wilco fan, I must admit that the Bragg-written songs are more coherent within the Guthrie legacy. Check out for example the sparse "Eisler On the Go", and "Another Man's Done Done" (with Tweedy on lead vocal). The best is "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key" (with Natalie Merchant on back vocals). Natalie also sings lead on "Birds and Ships". (So you really shouldn't be surprised by Natalie's fab collection of folk tunes "The House Carpenter's Daugther", issued independently last year).In all, this is a terrific collection, which deservedly received a second volume as well. Recommended for fans of Billy Bragg, Wilco, Woddy Guthrie, and of course Bob Dylan."
Deserving of Ten Thousand Stars
Gianmarco Manzione | Tampa, FL USA | 05/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Every once in a while and usually out of the blue, we are graced with an album that defies time and genre, the type of music that we will be listening to when Mars is terraformed; Mermaid Avenue is just such an album. It is the diamond in the careers of both Bragg and Wilco. Whether it's the boisterous "Walt Whitman's Neice," the thumping drums of "California Stars," or the country folk of "Minor Key," this album offers a richness of sound that will have listeners licking their chops. The innocence of tracks like "Hoodoo Voodoo" or "Ingrid Bergman" creates a fragile balance with the spate of darker songs, like "One by One," which sounds as if pulled from a deep burrow of desire in Woody Guthrie's soul and recalls the sweet yearning of Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay." While the album delivers consistently good music, each song is so different from its predecessor that even the most casual listener's attention is unlikely to wander. Nominated for a Best Contemporary Folk Album Grammy, "Mermaid Avenue" is a priceless example of Guthrie's achievement at the dawn of a new century."
A Wonderful Work
Larry Glickman | 12/01/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Is this a concept album or a tribue album? Is this an album of cover tunes, or original songs? Working with the Woody Guthrie archives, Billy Bragg and Wilco craft music to lyrics written by Woody Guthrie for which he never had an opportunity to write music. As you listen to these songs, sometimes beautiful, sometimes raucus, you can't help but to wonder if these artists have channeled Woody Guthrie's spirit correctly. Should "Walt Whitman's Niece" be the rock song that it is? Should "Ingrid Bergman" be this beautiful plea to the seemingly unattainable starlet, or should it be a sing-a-long? As the album progresses, you realize that correctness doesn't matter, and that whether they got it right or wrong, this album works. The songs are a wonderful representation of the variety of different types of songs heard from Woody Guthrie throughout his career, and the collaboration between the long gone Woody, the Billy Bragg and Wilco is inspired, energetic, creative and fun.Thanks are due to Woody's daughter Nora and the Woody Guthrie archives for dreaming this project up, and for working with these musicians. Would this project have worked with a duo of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan? Of course, but that may have been a little too safe, and a little too expected. Thanks are due to Billy Bragg and Wilco for realizing that working together would result in a much better, and more diverse album than if they insisted on working alone. Thanks are due to Woody Guthrie, for even if his body would not allow him the strength to write music, his mind could still create these wonderful lyrics."
A fitting tribute
Nathaniel D Grotte | Wisconsin | 12/17/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Do not be scared off by the premise of the project: a vaguely country-rock band and a Scottish folksinger reviving ancient Woody Guthrie lyrics. First of all, none of those descriptions do their discriptee justice; Wilco's one of the strongest songwriting groups in America today with the musical skills to back it up, Billy Bragg's a gifted balladeer and a brilliant folk-rocker and Woody Guthrie...well, that name ought to speak for itself by belonging to one of the greatest songwriters ever, author of a vast catalogue of topical, witty and beautiful songs that celebrate people, life, children and America in a way that has rarely been matched. Apparently, Woody's daughter Nora approached Wilco and Bragg about the possibility of collaborating to write music and record some of the thousands of songs that Woody wrote but never recorded. The result is a very impressive album. Maybe the key is that the artists, while certainly aware of Guthrie's incredible contributions, don't spend the album revering Guthrie, wringing their hands over being worthy of such a project. Wilco and Bragg jump right in and immediately get their hands dirty, opening with a song that's confusing and ribald but playing and hollering along with so much energy it will literally make you smile. Most of the Woody Guthrie releases now in print tend to focus on his political ballads and protest songs, so its fortunate that Wilco and Bragg chose lyrics that reflected a more personal side of Guthrie: love songs, songs about his children, songs lusting after Ingrid Bergman...Woody would have been unlikely to record such autobiographical songs, and its fortunate that someone did, leaving no doubt that Woody was more than just a powerful voice for others but a brilliant, introspective artist as well. Musically, the album's much like Wilco's "Being There," heavy on organ and acoustic guitar, with many large swells of sound. This might sound a little offensive to some, but this isn't a Woody replica, it's a modern band making these songs their own. The arrangements are straightforward and layered, which results in a rich, warm sound. Bragg's brogue works perfectly as a vehicle for Guthrie's rough lyrics, and Jeff Tweedy's boyish drawl lends an innocence and charm to the love songs that couldn't even be achieved by Guthrie. Woody was known to pass his guitars along to aspiring musicians to help them along; even better that he should pass along some songs not only to Wilco and Bragg, but through them, to the rest of us as well. This is probably more of a Wilco album than anything else, but with even greater-than-normal lyrics, and it's apparent how much Tweedy has taken from the classic understatement of Guthrie. Cannot recommend this album enough."