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Mermaid Avenue

4.6 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 23 1998)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Elektra Entertain.
  • ASIN: B000007NC0
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Audio Cassette  |  LP Record
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #18,558 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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1. Walt Whitman's Niece
2. California Stars
3. Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key
4. Birds And Ships
5. Hoodoo Voodoo
6. She Came Along To Me
7. At My Window Sad And Lonely
8. Ingrid Bergman
9. Christ For President
10. I Guess I Planted
11. One By One
12. Eisler On The Go
13. Hesitating Beauty
14. Another Man's Done Gone
15. The Unwelcome Guest

Product Description


When you first heard that Billy Bragg and Wilco were teaming up to set some Woody Guthrie lyrics to music, you knew it'd be an interesting project. But did anyone realistically think Mermaid Avenue would also wind up being one of 1998's finest albums? That's exactly what it is, a distinction it pulls off by simultaneously honouring Guthrie and blasting away any folksy expectations we might have of his music. Walking Guthrie's World War II-era lyrics into the 20th century's second, rock & roll half, Bragg and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy take turns on lead vocals, and the entire group collaborates on a sound that draws on folk- and country-rock, from Bob Dylan and the Band to Gram Parsons and Uncle Tupelo. The results are nearly flawless, ranging from yearning laments and playful children's rockers to horny ballads and brave protest songs that are not merely political but also profoundly moral. Like all of Guthrie's work, Mermaid Avenue is music to live better by. --David Cantwell

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This is an unlikely collaboration: a brazenly political British folksinger, a difficult-to-categorize-band-from-the-Midwest, and a stack of lyrics from a long deceased singer. It's surprising how well it works: Bragg revives old "protest" ballads with utopian flare while Wilco resurrects love songs and Guthrie's jarring religious imagery. Woody Guthrie stretches both artists: Bragg's anger and self-righteousness is tempered by a dose of good humour while Wilco is unusually joyful and lucid.
I nearly wore this CD out when I bought it a few years ago. The album works so well as a whole: the songs are varied stylistically and the lyrics are simple yet mature. I've recently re-discovered it, and it sounds fresher than anything I've bought since. I find that the Wilco tracks tend to stand out more with time (probably due to the dual songwriting contributions of Jay Bennett and Jeff Tweedy -- two is better than one). They breathe with an easiness that tends to elude the more didactic Bragg.
One final note: Mermaid Avenue II is a worthwhile companion album. It may even be stronger in places, but be warned: it is not as consistently good.
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Format: Audio CD
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.
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Format: Audio CD
This collection of songs highlights what a visionary Woody Guthrie really was. With a set of lyrics that are both far ahead of their time and deeply perceptive into the human condition, the musicians had a lot to work with. And what they did with it is truly amazing. They bring Guthrie's works right into the modern day and show how potent they still are. We have songs about everything from politics to social interaction, much like we find in modern rock n roll, performed with honesty and plainspoken integrity. I am glad that these musicians didn't overdo the arrangements, because the simplicity really works here. Unlike some other reviewers, I think the Wilco material really works- it doesn't sound like it's stuck in the 90s- it truly seems timeless. My favorite track is "one by one," with its haunting slide guitar and fade-in intro. Perfect for autumn-- or any time really. "Ingrid Bergman" is great too- hey they're all great, you can't go wrong with this collection!
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Format: Audio CD
Have you ever woke up one morning feeling terrible. Your hairs messed up, you're still have asleep, and you found out that you're dog took a crap last night incidently by stepping in it. Then, as if it was in a movie, you look outside and see the sun rising, and you forget all of what happened. Picture that in music, and this album being the sunrise.
Before I bought this album, I was disgusted in the way music was becoming. I am 16 years old and I think I know more about music than anyone else at my high school, and I hate MTV, VH1, and the radio. This album blew me away with it's music. showing that you could have a 'Tribute/Unreleased' album and have so many different styles, some doubt Woody Guthrie would ever experiment with. The album starts off with, 'Walt Whitman's Niece', an upbeat, singable song with a light giddy field, It moves on to go into melowness('Birds and Ships' with the wonderfully talented singer Natalie Merchant), Jump Style('Hoodoo Voodoo') and other mellow and upbeat tracks.
This is an album for lovers of folk, rock, country, Woody Guthrie, Billy Bragg, and Wilco. If you are one of the people above, pick this one up.
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Format: Audio CD
I know what the haters out there are thinking..."He's moved out to Jersey and now the big metal fan is getting soft. He's even listening to alt-country!" Well, honestly perhaps the small-minded of you are thinking that, but the less judgemental are probably saying 'Glad you finally got ahold of Mermaid Avenue. What took you so long?" Personally, I just find Mermaid Avenue enjoyable and am not that concerned that its not my usual fare. Even the hardest of metalheads would have trouble denying that 'Walt Whitman's Niece' and 'California Stars' are instant classics to start out the album. Factor in the Dylan-esque 'At My Window Sad and Lonely' and the starkly beautiful 'Another Man's Done Gone' and you've got several really great songs as well as a bunch of other good songs on this album . Hey, metal's still my favorite genre, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, and the Drive By Truckers as well. If you're skeptical, just listen to this album and I think you'll find you like it at least as much as I do.
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