- 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: 118 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #10,974 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Walking Guthrie's WWII-era lyrics into our century's rock & roll half, Bragg and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy take turns on lead vocals, and the entire group collaborates on a sound that draws upon folk- and country-rock, from Dylan and the Band to Gram Parsons and Uncle Tupelo. The results are nearly flawless. -- USA Today
With [Billy] Bragg ... and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy each singing seven songs and guest Natalie Merchant taking one, Mermaid Avenue can initially seem disjointed and unfocused, but ultimately its ramshackle approach proves to be the perfect channel for Guthrie's raucous and irrepressible spirit. -- The Los Angeles Times
[The collaborators] succeed to wondrous effect, inventing enough lilting melodies and vocal arrangements to make Guthrie's songs sound like sing-along classics. -- People
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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"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.
Whether you consider Guthrie a socialist or an anti-capitalist, his political commentaries (Christ For President, The Unwelcome Guest) fit neatly in today's social climate. His love songs are sensitive and poetic (Way Off Yonder In The Minor Key, At My Window Sad and Lonely, One By One). Instead of the vulgar and dehumanizing lyrics of much of today's music towards women, Guthrie's sexual double entendres (Walt Whitman's Niece) are refreshing and literate. In fact, refreshing and literate is as good as any summary of Mermaid Avenue. Outside of public high schools, thinking is still considered acceptable social behavior.
The grave is unmoved but the wanting remained, recorded by his daughter, Nora Guthrie, and persevered for others to observe.
Those others observed the wanting at the request of Nora Guthrie in a CD entitled Mermaid Avenue. The others are Billy Bragg and the members of Wilco. Enthusiastically they made real the songs buried in flesh but not forgotten in spirit.
We are the recipient of a musical truth that isn't pious in it's creation, but joyous; the celebration of man who would have stood as the lead singer as much as humbly played a supporting role for a music and message that has more to do with what your are listening to then the artist itself.
Happy, sad, romantic or just defiant - listen, enjoy and learn.
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