MERMAID AVENUE is a collection of previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics exhumed from the Woody Guthrie Archives and set to music by Billy Bragg and Wilco at the invitation of Guthrie's daughter Nora.
Billy Bragg & Wilco: Billy Bragg (vocals, acoustic, electric & steel guitars, banjo, bouzuki); Jeff Tweedy (vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, harmonica); Jay Bennett (acoustic, electric & slide guitars, banjo, bouzuki, dulcimer, piano, Clavinet, Hammond & Farfisa organs, melodica, electric bass, drums, percussion, background vocals); John Stirratt (piano, Hammond organ, acoustic & electric basses, background vocals); Ken Coomer (drums, percussion, background vocals).
Additional personnel: Natalie Merchant (vocals); Corey Harris (electric & lap steel guitars, background vocals); Bob Egan (slide & pedal steel guitars); Eliza Carthy (violin); Elizabeth Steen (accordion); Peter Yanowitz (drums); Jonathan "JP" Parker (background vocals).
Engineers include: Dave Trumfio, Mike Hagler, Matt Ellard.
Recorded at Totally Wired Studio and Windmill Lane, Dublin, Ireland; King Size Sound Laboratories, Chicago, Illinois; Fort Apache Studio, Boston, Massachusetts. Includes liner notes by Billy Bragg.
MERMAID AVENUE was nominated for a 1999 Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Personnel: Billy Bragg (vocals, acoustic guitar); Jeff Tweedy (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, harmonica); Natalie Merchant (vocals, background vocals); Wilco (vocals); Corey Harris (guitar, electric guitar, lap steel guitar); Bob Egan (slide guitar); Jay Bennett (bouzouki, piano, Clavinet, organ, drums, background vocals); Eliza Carthy (violin); John Stirratt (piano, acoustic bass, electric bass, background vocals); Ken Coomer (drums, percussion); Peter Yanowitz (drums).
Recording information: King Size Sound Laboratories, Chicago, IL; Totally Wired Studio, Dublin, Ireland; Windmill Lane Recording Studio, Dublin, Ireland.
Woody Guthrie's gift to the world of music cannot be overstated. His songwriting helped to define folk music as we know it, as an instrument not only of musical creation, but of social change. Among those troubadours who carry on his tradition, England's Billy Bragg stands proud, for his musical talent and his social awareness alike. In 1995, Nora Guthrie, Woody's daughter, approached Bragg to set to music some of the hundreds of songs that the legend had left unfinished. The result, MERMAID AVENUE, recorded by Bragg with Chicago band Wilco, is equal parts tribute and collaboration.
Joined by guest stars such as Natalie Merchant, slide guitarist Corey Harris, and violinist Eliza Carthy, Bragg more than does justice to the Guthrie legacy. From the rollicking opener, "Walt Whitman's Niece" to dreamy double-tracking of "She Came Along To Me," Bragg's gift for matching melody and lyric highlights the universality of Guthrie's music. Merchant's fragile vocal work on "Birds And Ships" is a thing of sublime beauty, while Jeff Tweedy's plaintive, rough timbre lends a particularly heart-rending quality to such tracks as "At My Window Sad And Lonely" and "Hoodoo Voodoo."
Rolling Stone (5/13/99, p.65) - Included in Rolling Stone's "Essential Recordings of the 90's."
Spin (1/99, p.91) - Ranked #8 on Spin's list of "Top 20 Albums of '98."
Spin (9/98, p.184) - 8 (out of 10) - "...The combination feels nostalgic and contemporary at once, like a good rabble-rousing speech--or a snatch of Americana suddenly recalled years after you thought it'd passed forever from memory."
Entertainment Weekly (9/4/98, p.84) - "...Bragg and the otherwise callow Wilco make the many moods of Woody spring to life with boozy, woozy roughhouse folk-rock. It may feel like school, but at least the classroom's rollicking." - Rating: B+
CMJ (1/11/99, p.3) - "...The varied arrangements uncover Guthrie's knack for evoking many moods with simple words, making for one of the year's most memorable and inspired albums..."