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coverpic flag England - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 26 - 12/03/98

Billy Bragg & Wilco
Mermaid Avenue
Elektra / WEA

The story; Nora Guthrie finds some old songs written by her father, Woody, which he never had a chance to put music to. After some hesitation she asked Billy Bragg and Wilco if they would be interested in helping her release an album with these newly discovered gems.

The verdict; One of the most rich, diverse, and beautiful albums of the year. Every track has been well thought and planned so as to preserve the intelligent writings of Woody Guthrie, yet at the same time giving Bragg and Wilco room to experiment and have fun with the music.

The time invested paid off. Bragg, with his deep voice and quiet picking keep the album grounded in terms of respecting the older styles of country music while Wilco soar into often upbeat, contemporary takes on Guthrie's songs leaving you with only a smile to show for it once the track is over.

Even Natalie Merchant joins in for two tracks adding a soothing, and organic feel to the album assuring that this compilation of artists have beautifully tributed this often overlooked singer/songwriter, Woody Guthrie.

Mermaid Avenue: the name of the street in Coney Island, Brooklyn, were Woody Guthrie, his wife, and their kids lived 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 to himself what he would do if, like left-wing songwriter Hanns Eisler, he was called before the house committee on un-American activities. And here he wrote songs. Hundreds of them.

Copyright © 1998 Matthew Arnold e-mail address

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