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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Mermaid Avenue

Billy Bragg

Wilco

1998

Mermaid Avenue
Album Summary

Mermaid Avenue is a 1998 album of previously unheard lyrics written by American folk singer Woody Guthrie, put to music written and performed by British singer Billy Bragg and the American band Wilco. The project was the first of several such projects organized by Guthrie's daughter, Nora Guthrie, original director of the Woody Guthrie Foundation and archives. Mermaid Avenue was released on the Elektra Records label on June 23, 1998. A second volume of recordings, Mermaid Avenue Vol. II, followed in 2000 and both were collected in a box set alongside volume three in 2012 as Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions. The projects are named after the song "Mermaid's Avenue", written by Guthrie. This was also the name of the street in Coney Island, New York, on which Guthrie lived. According to American Songwriter Magazine, "The Mermaid Avenue project is essential for showing that Woody Guthrie could illuminate what was going on inside of him as well as he could detail the plight of his fellow man". It was voted number 939 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums 3rd Edition (2000).

Wikipedia

Rating

3.18

Votes

11801

Genres

  • Rock
  • Folk
  • Singer Songwriter

Reviews

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Sun Mar 21 2021
4

During the spring of 1995, Woody Guthrie's daughter Nora contacted British urban folk troubadour Billy Bragg about writing music for a selection of completed Guthrie lyrics. This was no minor task -- Guthrie left behind over a thousand sets of complete lyrics written between 1939 and 1967 that had no music other than a vague stylistic notation. Bragg chose a number of songs to finish, as did Jeff Tweedy of the alt-country band Wilco (often with bandmate Jay Bennett). Nora Guthrie impressed a common goal upon them: Rather than recreating Guthrie tunes, they should write as if they were collaborating with Woody, creating new, vital music for the lyrics. Both artists completed more songs than could fit on Mermaid Avenue, which is neatly split between Bragg and Wilco, with Bragg taking lead on eight of the 15 songs. The results are almost entirely a delight, mainly because all involved are faithful to Guthrie's rowdy spirit -- it's a reverent project that knows how to have fun. There are many minor, irresistible gems scattered throughout the album, and most of them come from Bragg. Where Wilco's fine contributions sound inextricably tied to the '90s, both for better and for worse, Bragg's music sounds contemporary while capturing Guthrie's folk traditions. That's not to say Wilco's contributions are failures -- it's just hard to imagine Guthrie singing the plaintive "California Stars" or the plodding "Christ for President," neither of which quite fit the lyrics. Nevertheless, their hearts are in the right place; more often than not, they come close to the target, and their joyous playing invigorates Mermaid Avenue. The blend of Bragg's traditionalist sensibility and Wilco's contemporary style ultimately illustrates that Guthrie's words, ideals, and aesthetics remain alive in the '90s. It's a remarkable record that deserves a sequel.

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Mon Dec 13 2021
5

Woody Guthrie was always one of those artists that I'd spoken about in reverence but never really took the time to listen to until a few years ago. It took the teacher of a lettering workshop I attended talking about Guthrie having been a sign writer travelling where the work took him in the days before he became a recording artitst for me me finally listen closely. I became a staunch fan after that. So I finally listened to this album after side stepping it for so long. It is one of the few albums on this list so far that I would say is a truly important one. It is not only great music split between Wilco and Billy Bragg but it brings to life these lost lyrics. And they tell a story of a forgetten America and showcase how powerful what Woody had to say was. It also showcases what a fun and clever writer the man was. So good to hear his legacy at work. Now to go listen to some more Billy Bragg and Wilco as I have neglected them for way too long

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Wed Oct 20 2021
4

Listened to this in a Travelodge at about 11pm after working since 9am. Not conducive to making much sense of what I heard (but at least it happened before I used the complimentary shampoo that somehow made my hair feel dirtier). Luckily, I know this one fairly well already. So, from memory... It's always a pleasant surprise to hear two artists I have little interest in outside of this collaboration liberated from the tyranny of their own material--so often the thing that holds decent musicians back. Bragg doesn't come across as such a try-hard punk and Wilco don't constipate themselves trying to force melodic brilliance because Guthrie's deceptively simple material carries all the weight for them. That's all I got.

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Fri Jan 21 2022
5

California Stars alone is an all-timer, and everything else is an absolute joy. Somehow it's a perfect mix of Bragg, Wilco, special guest Natalie Merchant and the unearthed Woody Guthrie lyrics. Jay Bennett was always the secret sauce in Wilco (the band was never considered "dad rock" until he and Jeff Tweedy parted ways). He always seemed to bring out the best of Tweedy. Back to the aforementioned California Stars. It's obviously a 5, such a great timeless song that it became a signature song for Wilco. It still closes out many of their concerts. Woody Guthrie should write more songs for Jeff Tweedy.

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Wed Jul 19 2023
1

Sometimes I read other people's reviews and wonder if they were listening to the same album as me. I guess different people have different tastes, which is fine; nothing wrong with that. This was fifty minutes of turgid and depressing dullness, truly awful from start to finish. There were no stand out tracks, apart from maybe Hoodoo Voodoo, which was a definite low point and where I would have normally given up listening if I hadn't promised myself to endure to the bitter end. It didn't get any better and if anything it actually got worse.

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Fri Jun 11 2021
5

Really solid album throughout. I like that they had multiple people contribute to the songs which give all of the tracks a slightly different sound but you can tell they are all related. Definitely putting on my list to come back to

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Tue Oct 12 2021
5

What a wonderful album. Soulful, significant and spirit-raising, all at the same time.

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Tue Jan 24 2023
4

A collaboration like none other (at the time)... Bragg and Wilco were tasked with completing music to accompany completed lyrics Woody Guthrie had left behind. The result is an album that doesn't sound like any of the three components. Fun and diverting.

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Fri Nov 19 2021
3

Wouldn't normally like Bragg but this one was quite pleasant. Perhaps it was the involvement of Wilco which improved it.

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Mon Feb 08 2021
5

Outstanding folk rock. Woody Guthrie’s lyrics are funny, inspiring, depressing.

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Thu May 13 2021
5

Loved it. Billy Bragg took a load of old lyrics of Woody Guthrie's and put these songs together trying to imagine how he'd do them if he were alive today. Plus there are two more of these albums.

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Wed Dec 08 2021
5

Amazing album. So honest. I felt like Billy Bragg is my friend telling me life stories. A lot like Matt Munhall. Really enjoyed listening to it.

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Tue Jul 09 2024
4

I have already heard some Wilco albums and did absolutely not enjoy them even a single full song. So my hopes for this album were not really high but when listened to it, I was surprised! These songs were written by American Folk legend Woody Guthrie, known for albums like Dust Bowl Ballads. He died in 1967 and his daughter Nora decided to start multiple projects in which artists record previously unheard lyrics. And this is the approach by Wilco together with british singer Billy Bragg. The songs feel honest and warm, something I didn't often feel when listening to Wilco. I think it's mainly the "simplicity" of the lyrics that do not Try to be good, they just Are by touching you emotionally. From the first song on I knew that this album had the potential to change my opinion on Wilco. 'Walt Whitman's Niece' is a nice, up beat country piece that puts you in the mood for the album. It works really well as the opening track. Followed up is that by the lead single 'California Stars', which is arguably the best song on this album. The sentimental and introspective lyrics work perfectly with the multiple instruments used and create a song that sounds like the song title reads. 'Way Over in the Minor Key' is instrumentally very stripped down, compared to the previous two songs but due to the usage of an accordion that doesn't fell too much out of place. The harmonies in the chrous also add a lot to the enjoyment of this one. Although it gets a lot of love and praise 'Birds and Ships' is not a song I am very fond of. Songs like this have to be done right but this is not how I like to hear a song like this. 'Hoodoo Voodoo' not only sounds like a silly song, it is silly. But in a good way. It is fun and the voice that genuinely sounds like he should better take some cough syrup than sing, adds a lot in my opinion. 'She Came Along to Me' is a very standard country rock song but I like it because of that. Again the music feels genuine and honest, not like what a lot of Wilco felt to me before. The first half ends with 'At My Window Sad and Lonely'. A beautiful and very sentimental song that is easily another highlight of this album although it is probably not as good as 'California Stars'. Very emotional lyrics that are sung ontop of a beautiful and mellow Folk Rock song. The second half meets us with the very short but interesting 'Ingrid Bergman' that sounds like a classic country song from the early to mid 50's. A bit like if there was only one of the Louvin Brothers there. Still nothing too crazy. 'Christ for President' follows with interesting Alt-Country instrumentals that all together kind of fall short from a mediocre performance both vocally and instrumentally after a while. The following song 'I Guess I Planted' suffers from a similar fate although it can hold itself much better and remains much more enjoyable through out. I actually really like this one for its hitting drums and bass work. 'One by One' starts by slowly fading in and the moment that it is there it just feels like a normal Wilco song. This is the moment where the album slowly fades into the worse parts. Although this song is still fairly enjoyable it does mark the point of where the album looses a lot of what it made for me in the first place. And it wouldn't take long because 'Eisler on the Go' is the first song I actually don't like at all. The start sounds very promising but after a little while you realize that more doesn't happen. It stretches with not even three minutes of playtime and when a song feels tiring for someone who's favourite songs are pretty much all 10min+, it's not a good sign. 'Hesitating Beauty' is much better. It's a classic country sounding song with a nice text and structure. Just fun country that isn't too crazy or too annoying. But the last two songs are at the level 'Eisler on the Go' was. 'Another Man's Done Gone' is pretty much that but piano only. You'd be better off listening to what ever there is on the charts right now, as there is probably more "geniune emotional value" in there than in this song. The closing track 'The Unwelcome Guest' feels like an average Wilco song but without any risk and any enjoyment. It is streched and annoying to get through. But with so much negativity it is important to remember how strong the start was and that just three out of the last four songs put this album down. Overall I gave 6 songs a rating of 6 or lower which explains why I'm still liking this album. If I listen to a Wilco album in the future there is a chance that my opinion on them has changed for the better. favourites: California Stars, At My Window Sad and Lonely, Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key, I Guess I Planted, Walt Whitman's Niece least favourites: Another Man's Done Gone, The Unwelcome Guest, Eisler on the Go Rating: light to decent 7 https://rateyourmusic.com/~Emil_ph for more ratings, reviews and takes

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Fri Mar 19 2021
3

Billy Bragg was definitely the right choice for this project. And Wilco is an interesting backing band for him. Billy Bragg's voice has the right amount of weight and range to capture the spirit of Woody Guthrie, especially on Way Over Yonder with Natalie Merchant backing him. Wilco manage to make the songs their own, especially California Stars. I think I'd prefer a 2 disc affair with all the Billy Bragg led tracks on a disc and all the Wilco led tracks on another. Overall I think I lean towards preferring the Billy Bragg tracks. An interesting experimental cocktail but one I wouldn't come back to repeatedly (and I should know cause I own this one on CD).

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Wed Sep 01 2021
3

My heart sank the second I hit play since I'm already sick and tired of folk music less than 40 albums in, but Woody Guthrie's lyrics went a long way towards making this a more-than-tolerable 50 minutes. There are moments on this record where it sounds like pretty standard stuff, but elsewhere, Wilco and Bragg's sound meshes with Guthrie's playful and progressive wordplay to create an intriguing musical time paradox that feels impossible to date one way or the other. I can't even be too mad about the tracks I didn't like, because a ditty about wanting Ingrid Bergman to touch your junk is even funnier following the maudlin "At My Window Sad and Lonely" (and Bergman doesn't even contain the best dick joke on this record; the opener sees Guthrie building up to an even better knockout blow). My weariness for folk is probably still informing my score here, but I can see how someone could read these lyrics and think that it just has to be turned into music, and for the most part, they do it justice. Key Tracks: Walt Whitman's Niece, Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key, The Unwelcome Guest

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Sat Oct 30 2021
2

2/5 Not really appealing to me, no tempo, quite boring

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Fri May 07 2021
1

Was a 2 star until I learned all the lyrics were just nicked from someone else. Commie bastard.

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Sat Nov 12 2022
1

Do I like Billy Bragg? No. Do I like Woody Guthrie? Also no. Do I like this album? Absolutely not. Dirge after dirge, I'm turning this hogwash off.

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Tue Nov 22 2022
1

meh. folk stuff for people who hark back to a mythical time with crazy strong rose-tinted glasses.

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Thu Jan 21 2021
5

This was a total surprise and so memorable. I had heard California Stars before, but nothing else. Loved it.

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Fri Jun 11 2021
5

The first third really took me by surprise. Amazing folk! I guess I should've expected it from Guthrie? I guess I was more eye-rolling at Wilco. But damn, great. Started to taper off as it went on, but ended strong on The Unwelcome Guest. The less than stellar second half of this almost made me give a 4, but I think the concept, execution, and incredible strength of the songs that DO hit keep it a 5 for me.

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Mon Jan 25 2021
5

I like this album. I had only heard 1-2 songs off it before listening.

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Fri Apr 30 2021
5

Probablemente el mejor disco que hicieron ambos, Wilco y Billy. En algunos momentos suenan muy Paul Westerberg, qué loco. Gran disco. Me da como calma, ahorita que me siento entre triste, ondeado y emputado.

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Tue Apr 06 2021
5

Like both artists, makes sense they would sound good together. This album is lovely, bouncy and clever.

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Mon May 17 2021
5

It feels like this site knows my album collection. It keeps feeding me albums I've listened to hundreds of times. This is one such album. I was flipping channels one day and ended up watching the documentary of how this album came to be. That documentary was the first I'd heard of the album. That was 20+ years ago, probably around the time the album was released, and I've listened to it countless times since. An absolute classic. Btw, I don't remember whose idea it was to have Billy Bragg and Wilco collaborate on this album, but it was a real stroke of genius. And the Natalie Merchant cameo was absolutely amazing.

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Thu Jul 08 2021
5

Love King Billy And the tension between Wilco And some brilliant songs + Natalie Merchant

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Thu Jul 15 2021
5

Folk rock at its finest. Varied, musical, interesting, and lengthy album.

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Sun Jul 25 2021
5

Fan-fucking-tastic! I had heard a lot of these songs before but didn't know anything about them or the artists involved. What a phenomenal record, one I'll now be spinning the rest of my life.

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Sun Aug 15 2021
5

precioso disco, country y folk, lindas melodias.

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Mon Sep 13 2021
5

Billy Bragg is in my head with a guitar and he will not leave. 5 stars.

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Fri Oct 08 2021
5

Started off strong and continued strong, loved it

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Sat Dec 04 2021
5

I don’t listen to this album or Billy Bragg enough

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Fri Dec 10 2021
5

This might be Wilco’s best album… Ingrid Bergman, California Stars, Hesitating Beauty all highlight their “sensitive” side really well.

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Tue Jan 25 2022
5

I own this CD. It's a longtime favourite! Great modern interpretation of Woody Guthry songs.

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Tue Feb 15 2022
5

Still as fantastic as the first time I heard it!

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Tue Mar 22 2022
5

First two songs are real good

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Mon Apr 25 2022
5

This was a fantastic folksy, country and Americana-feeling album that is a good listen all the way through. Couldn’t get California Stars out of my head for multiple days.

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Wed May 11 2022
5

one of my favorite albums of all time - one by one close to a perfect song

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Wed May 11 2022
5

Great album. Really enjoy the concept and the execution is a lot of fun. 5/5

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Tue Jun 07 2022
5

This is so good! I wasn't sure if I liked the idea to attach Woody Guthrie's lyrics to a more modern sound, but they did a great job of making it all gel. It is a new spin on Woody, not trying to emulate in any way except for the welcome addition of a harmonica on one track. Unexpectedly great!

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Fri Jun 10 2022
5

A great album. Refreshing folk/acoustic style with great lyrics and vocals...obvs with the odd Billy Bragg style you'd expect.

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Wed Jun 15 2022
5

This was lovely. What could possibly go wrong, Woody Guthrie, Billy Bragg and Wilco. Eminently listenable!

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Mon Jul 04 2022
5

I really liked this. I thought every song was strong; there wasn’t a single one that I thought stuck out as weak. I would definitely listen to this again.

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Tue Jul 12 2022
5

I saw this album pop up today and and knew, this is going to be a great day. I really love this album. I listen to it frequently and have several songs in my regular rotation. So if you came to me and asked me to choose an artist who could take original lyrics from Woody Guthrie and frame them musically in a way that's fresh, yet totally captures Guthrie's complexity as a songwriter... Billy Bragg immediately would be my first pick. Wilco wouldn't necessarily have come to mind, but the partnership they have on this album is so special. In fact, Bragg + Wilco (+ Guthrie) is one of the most compelling musical collaborations I've ever heard. The way they support and complement each other musically is beyond words. Guthrie's lyrics are gorgeously, plain-spokenly eloquent. They're sometimes strident, sometimes quite sad, but also so much fun. But this is Billy Bragg's show, really. His pathos and sensitivity, his humor and cheekiness, these are what drive the songs on this album and really bring Guthrie's words to life. Wilco's presence adds a musicality and pop sensibility that really brightens the overall feel of the album as well. The songs are equal parts joyous and contemplative, funny even at times. They're warm and laid back, and clearly everyone is having a blast. A surprise Natalie Merchant appearance is icing on the cake. What a delight to hear. What. A Delight. Fave Songs (All songs, from most to least favorite): California Stars, Walt Whitman's Niece, Another Man's Done Gone, Birds and Ships, Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key, The Unwelcome Guest, Eisler on the Go, Hesitating Beauty, One by One, At My Window Sad and Lonely, I Guess I Planted, Ingrid Bergman, She Came Along to Me, Christ for President, Hoodoo Voodoo

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Tue Jul 12 2022
5

Love this - didn’t realise how much I did until re listening to it - warm fuzzy lovin it

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Tue Jul 26 2022
5

Just plain slaps. Hits all my buttons

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Thu Aug 04 2022
5

Great shit. If I wasn't a day behind I'd listen to it again right now. Loved this album.

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Sat Aug 06 2022
5

I love this. It vacillates so nicely between Bragg's sweet and folksy approach to Wilco's moody atmospheric style. Billy Bragg and Wilco really seem to understand Woody Guthrie and what's at the heart of his songwriting. They've interpreted his lyrics beautifully here for a newer audience. I feel like part of something special listening to it. And I love love LOVE this album cover! I love looking at it, it reminds me of all the times I spent walking around my city, wandering, finding cool hidden gems all by myself. But I won't say which ones! If you could bottle the feeling of walking through a city you love with no plans and nowhere to be, I'd pay anything for it. This album is close enough for now.

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Sun Sep 11 2022
5

Incredible album. Cannot wait to revisit this one.

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Mon Sep 26 2022
5

I love everything about this album. It makes me want to move to some remote place in the mountains and just chill with a guitar on a porch. Favourite tracks except for the obvious first track and California Stars are One by one and Eisler on the go. 5/5

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Tue Oct 18 2022
5

- Never listened to this before even though I like Bragg and Wilco - Genius idea that works really well - California Stars stands out as the best track but consistently really good - Fav songs: California Stars, The Unwelcome Guest, Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key

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Sat Oct 22 2022
5

This is an incredible album. It's like you can feel the bridge in time between Woody writing these lyrics and Billy Bragg and Wilco writing and performing the music. The songs are incredibly strong and cohesive. The lyrics are amazing, full of evocative scenes and witty double entendres, a fine testament to Woody Guthrie's genius. Classic. 5 stars.

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Mon Oct 31 2022
5

I remember when looking at the Wikipedia for this book, I was surprised at how Woody Guthrie didn't have an album on here (he does have music recorded, after all). If this is as close as it'll get, I don't mind. I previously got "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" on here and discovered I really enjoyed it, but I'm not as familiar with Billy Bragg. I think the idea is great and it's executed well. Despite the fact that Guthrie has been dead nearly 100 years, he can still connect. Even being... let's say agnostic, I enjoyed the pro-Jesus anti-politician "Christ For President". My, how times have changed, eh? Favorite tracks: "Way Over Yonder In a Minor Key", "At My Window Sad and Lonely", "I Guess I Planted", "Christ For President"

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Tue Nov 01 2022
5

Wasn't sure what I'd make of this as I've always found Billy Bragg hit and miss, and I've never latched onto Wilco either. Woody Guthrie, obviously, is a legend for good reason, so I was very intrigued. It well and truly won me over, a really warm and engaging, and unique record. I love a musical project that brings artists together across decades, and borne out of love. Wonderful stuff. There's at least 2 other volumes of this which I will have to check out.

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Thu Nov 03 2022
5

I own this, I love it. There's almost no downtime in here for me - this is all great. Everything good about these musicians is on this record. Love it.

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Mon Nov 07 2022
5

Love this album. Listened to it for the first time about 3 months ago. My sister in law was telling us about Ingrid Bergman song. So I looked it up. Really love the melodies, instrumentation and the over all sound. Gonna rate this one high.

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Fri Nov 11 2022
5

Lost songs brought back to happy life.

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Sat Dec 10 2022
5

I was surprised by how much I liked this. I didn't previously engage with Bragg or wilco or woody Guthrie. Yet I found myself tapping my toe to most of these songs and enjoying the lyricism.

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Mon Dec 12 2022
5

What a fun album! Wilco is very hit or miss for me (I think they're great, I just don't always enjoy their stuff), but this was fantastic. I'm not terribly familiar with Woody Guthrie's work, but judging from this, I'd say he's a great songwriter. I really loved the vocals and instrumentation on this album, and "Walt Whitman's Niece" was the perfect opening track.

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Tue Dec 27 2022
5

The concept for this album was interesting and the execution was fantastic. I heard that tensions ran high between Billy Bragg and Wilco while making this but they all must be happy with how it turned out. Some songs are somber and mournful, some are raucous and bawdy and then there is the glorious cacophony of Hoodoo Voodoo. These are songs that seem like they would be played at a hootenanny. One that I would be happy to attend. Natalie and Billy singing on Way Over yonder in the Minor Key is beautiful.

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Tue Dec 27 2022
5

What a beautiful confluence of style and talent. I love Billy Bragg so my heart leant more into the songs he sang but it’s such a well-rounded album. This passed me by the time but I’m delighted that this BB and Wilco collaboration unearthed some gorgeous songs with those doleful, gut-wrenching Guthrie lyrics.

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Mon Jan 30 2023
5

I love it, it even feels like time went by faster!

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Mon Feb 06 2023
5

This album was an ambitious concept that was well executed. To take the scraps of someone else's unfinished work and to turn it into something that sounds simultaneously modern and classic is not an easy thing to do. The one critique might be that a lot of this just sounds like a Wilco album, but I liked the other Wilco album a lot. Maybe if I knew more Woody Guthrie songs I'd feel more qualified to judge the execution but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt in my score. Would do a 4.5 if possible.

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Mon Feb 06 2023
5

This is a great concept. An unexpected pairing of artists that works incredibly well. The addition of Natalie Merchant's vocals makes it even better. Have loved this since it came out!

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Thu Feb 09 2023
5

The bard of Barking on top form

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Mon Feb 27 2023
5

It is great when a concept album works. And this one does. Lyrics from Woody Guthrie that did not have known music were given to Billy Bragg who brought along Wilco and set them to music. The result is an excellent record.

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Tue Mar 21 2023
5

What can I say about this album? I love this album, I have listened to it countless times in my life, and it holds such a nostalgic sway over my opinion that it seems impossible for me to say that even objectively this album is beautiful and perfect. Very pleased to pull this today. Also listened to Volume 2 and 3 of these recordings as well, which I highly recommend.

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Fri Jun 02 2023
5

I really enjoyed this one! I would absolutely listen again.

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Sat Jun 17 2023
5

Wow this was a great mixing of the old and the new (at the time, new). I thoroughly enjoyed this.

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Sat Jun 17 2023
5

Warm and cozy. Love this collaboration.

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Sat Jun 17 2023
5

This was a neat project to hear about. For me the end product was quite nice to listen to.

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Sat Jun 17 2023
5

What an amazing project this was! And how well it was done! I loved this very much.

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Tue Jul 11 2023
5

What a great listen. Whilst I'd heard some of the singles, the others were a fantastic surprise. Hard to believe that the music was written many years after the lyrics. It's like they were meant for each other. A great album

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Sun Sep 17 2023
5

Extraordinary in multiple ways. The fit between songwriter and players/collaborators is near perfect, the attitude of the homage is respectful but authentically loose, with more than a little fun, plus tones of soul, exquisite melancholia, and powerful emotion. And for fans of Bragg, Wilco and 10kM's – what could be better? One can scarcely recall a record that felt as much like a museum piece, but was at once so entirely enjoyable (not to mention deeply and personally meaningful back in the day). Haven't listened for years, but it still feels spot-on, rich and lovely and deep.

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Wed Oct 11 2023
5

The spirit of Woody Guthrie reincarnated as excellent alt-country band. Excellent! 10 Oct 2023

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Wed Oct 11 2023
5

Gus McRae tells his stories outside a motel 6

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Tue Nov 07 2023
5

Great folk music! Especially liked Birds and Ships & Ingrid Bergman

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Wed Nov 29 2023
5

Nice interpretation of a legend

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Mon Jan 01 2024
5

One confesses a deep and abiding love for this record, and not just for reasons of time and place. The whole project is beautifully conceived and lovingly executed. It's the best sort of homage, to a fully deserving honoree, with appropriate but original seeming interpretations that amplify the results to major, and even occasionally touching, effect. The Bragg-Wilco combo is extraordinary and Natalie Merchant adds a lot. The loose and fun bits – "Walt Whitman's Niece" and "Hoodoo Voodoo" and "Christ for President" – work exceedingly well and the soulful bits – "Way Over Yonder" and "Another Man's Done Gone" and "The Unwelcome Guest" – are authentically affecting – oh, the melancholy of the elegaic tone for a lost era; oh the futile hoping for a better life for workers. There's a sincerity of intent and genuine earnestness born of love and admiration for WG that fuels the effort. Everything in between is worthwhile, too, with the extraordinary "California Stars" and "She Came Along to Me" and "Ingrid Bergman" each delivering major mid-tempo impact. Scarcely a note wrong on the entire record and the level of excellence is maintained throughout. It meant so much all those years ago, and still does today. What more sign of greatness does one need? (Side plug: Tweedy's memoir of a few years ago is a terrific read.)

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