Thursday, June 27, 2013

mermaid avenue

Billy Bragg and Wilco teamed up to write music for unreleased songs by Woody Guthrie and recorded them for this loose and lively folk rock collaboration.  After Bragg performed at a Guthrie tribute concert in New York's Central Park, he was contacted by Guthrie's daughter Nora about putting music to the lyrics of songs selected from volumes that Guthrie had written but never recorded.  

Bragg reveals:     “She was frustrated to see her father made precious and reduced to an icon. He was an iconoclast, not an icon.  Nora helped me to overcome my initial feelings of being daunted by taking on this huge icon because she had already worked out what she wanted to do and that was, ‘The legend is over there and we’re going over here where everything is unknown. So everything you know about Woody, forget'.  Woody came from the English folk-song tradition, songs of 30 verses and no reprise. It helped to know that because it gave me my parameters. At one end you had that Elizabethan ballad tradition, at the other ‘supersonic boogie' and everything in between is permissible.  I would argue he’s the last of that ballad tradition and on the cusp of where folk music stops being folk and became music where people know who wrote it. He was the first singer-songwriter.  Our job was to take the idea forward, but in that one moment we reached back to the man himself and kept the faith with him, with Marjorie his wife who kept the lyrics, with Nora who set up the archive...By recording that and locking in to that particular emotion l felt we underscored the entire project with his lyric, ‘But I feel like this scribbling will stay’.  And nobody would have thought if you added Billy Bragg to Woody Guthrie you would have ended up with Mermaid Avenue and I’m happy with that.  I feel I’ve overcome expectations about myself and Woody -- and he hasn’t made his last record, this is just the first for 50 years...We're not being revisionist.  We are hacking away 50 years of people trying to make him a saint or a communist.  We're cutting down to the real person who had moments of terrible doubt, as in Another Man Done Gone, went out with his seamen buddies, whose love of his wife was part of his whole apprerciation of the role of women -- and wanted to bed Ingrid Bergman.  That’s a lot of Guthrie, but it was all him and you can’t have one without the other.”

The sessions for 'Mermaid Avenue' took place in Dublin, Chicago, and Boston and were produced by Billy Bragg, Wilco, and Grant Showbiz and featured Billy Bragg on acoustic guitar, electric guitar, National guitar, bouzouki, banjo, lead vocals, backing vocals, and handclaps; Jeff Tweedy on acoustic guitar, electric guitar, harmonica, lead vocals, backing vocals, and handclaps; Jay Bennett on piano, Hammond B-3 organ, clavinet, grand piano, melodica, Farfisa organ, Farfisa bass pedals, drums, percussion, bouzouki, dulcimer, banjo, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, slide guitar, electric bass, backing vocals, and handclaps; Corey Harris on electric guitar, lap steel guitar, backing vocals, and handclaps; Ken Coomer on drums, percussion, backing vocals, and handclaps; Natalie Merchant on lead vocals and backing vocals; John Stirratt on electric bass, acoustic bass, bass pedals, bass piano, Hammond B-3 organ, acoustic guitar, backing vocals, handclaps; Peter Yanowitz on chorus drums; Bob Egan on pedal steel and slide guitar; Eliza Carthy on violin; Johnathan "JP" Parker on backing vocals; and Elizabeth Steen on accordion.  

Man in the Sand documentary

"Walt Whitman's Niece"

"California Stars" 

"Birds and Ships" ft Natalie Merchant 

Billy Bragg & Wilco ft Natalie Merchant - Birds and Ships lyrics from Fanni Szappanos on Vimeo.

"Christ for President" 

Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions

All lyrics written by Woody Guthrie. Music by Billy Bragg and Wilco.

Volume 1
"Walt Whitman's Niece" (Bragg) – 3:53
"California Stars" (Tweedy / Bennett) – 4:57
"Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key" (Bragg) – 4:06
"Birds and Ships" ft Natalie Merchant (Tweedy) – 2:13
"Hoodoo Voodoo" (Tweedy / Bennett / Bragg / John Stirratt / Ken Coomer / Harris) – 3:12
"She Came Along to Me" (Bragg / Tweedy / Bennett) – 3:26
"At My Window Sad and Lonely" (Tweedy) – 3:27
"Ingrid Bergman" (Bragg) – 1:50
"Christ for President" (Bragg) – 2:39
"I Guess I Planted" (Bragg) – 3:32
"One by One" (Tweedy) – 3:22
"Eisler on the Go" (Bragg) – 2:56
"Hesitating Beauty" (Tweedy) – 3:04
"Another Man's Done Gone" (Tweedy) – 1:34
"The Unwelcome Guest" (Bragg) – 5:09
Volume 2
"Airline to Heaven" (Tweedy / Bennett) – 4:50
"My Flying Saucer"  (Bragg) – 1:45
"Feed of Man" (Tweedy) – 4:08
"Hot Rod Hotel"  (Bragg)  – 3:17
"I Was Born"  (Bragg)  – 1:50
"Secret of the Sea" (Tweedy / Bennett) – 2:42
"Stetson Kennedy"  (Bragg)  – 2:39
"Remember the Mountain Bed" (Tweedy / Bennett) – 6:26
"Blood of the Lamb" (Tweedy / Bennett) – 4:16
"Aginst th' Law"  (Bragg)  – 3:03
"All You Fascists"  (Bragg)  – 2:43
"Joe DiMaggio Done It Again"  (Bragg)  – 2:31
"Meanest Man"  (Bragg)  – 3:46
"Black Wind Blowing"  (Bragg) – 3:00
"Someday Some Morning Sometime" (Tweedy) – 2:53
Volume 3
"Bugeye Jim" – 3:18
"When the Roses Bloom Again" – 4:11
"Gotta Work" – 2:16
"My Thirty Thousand" – 2:40
"Ought to Be Satisfied Now" – 3:34
"Listening to the Wind That Blows" – 5:07
"Go Down to the Water" – 4:36
"Chain of Broken Hearts" – 3:31
"Jailcell Blues" – 2:28
"Don't You Marry" – 3:18
"Give Me a Nail" – 1:42
"The Jolly Banker" – 3:31
"Union Prayer" – 4:12
"Be Kind to the Boy on the Road" – 3:46
"Ain'ta Gonna Grieve" – 4:52
"Tea Bag Blues" – 4:03
"I'm Out to Get" – 3:58

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