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Mermaid Avenue

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iTunes Review

A truer example of "roots rock" than most, Mermaid Avenue reaches back to archived Woody Guthrie lyric sheets whose melodies were lost upon Guthrie's 1967 death. On what Billy Bragg calls "not a tribute album but a collaboration" between Guthrie, himself, and the members of Wilco, the great songwriter's immediacy is revived by varied rock and folk settings. The result underscores our loss while giving Guthrie's legacy a joyous shake. In these songs, Guthrie considers women's wisdom ("She Came Along to Me") and playfully longs to get in on Ingrid Bergman's indiscretions, proposes a radical "Christ for President," and strings together meaningful nonsense words for kids ("Hoodoo Voodoo," which in this treatment with Jeff Tweedy's vocal forges a link between Guthrie and the garage rock his follower Bob Dylan so deeply imprinted). Best of all, Mermaid Avenue pays the most knowing kind of tribute; it never treats Guthrie as too holy.

Customer Reviews


The criticism of Wilco's rendering of California Stars has been proven to be ridiculous with time. "California Stars" may be the best piece of Americana music since the Band. I think Woody's family has done just fine by this song and the subsequent royalites. Some times you just have to wonder what are critics listening too.

Couple of Gems

Bought it shortly after release. Can't go wrong with Walt Whitman's Niece and California Stars.

Hit and Miss Album

I have mixed feelings about this album. I'm in love with almost every Wilco song and I'm bored to tears with almost every Billy Bragg song. The Wilco songs are all entertaining and engaging. California Stars is one of the best Wilco songs in their catalog. Tweedy does it even better live and solo, but it's still awesome on this album. The only remotely weak tune by Wilco is Jesus for President.

The Bragg songs, on the other hand, are almost universally throwaways. Bragg's vocals are weak and so flat that it leaves most of his songs feeling like a snooze fest. The one exception is Way Over Yonder. That's an absolutely great song and possibly the best on the album.

With almost every other song being a throwaway, this album is like night and day. I kept every Wilco song and just the one Bragg song. The duet at the end is also a a throwaway. Even Tweedy's great vocals can't save that song with Bragg's flat droning. It's a shame, if all the songs were sung by Tweedy, this album would easily be 5 star quality.


Born: December 20, 1957 in Barking Town Hall, London, Englan

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Finding inspiration in the righteous anger of punk rock and the socially conscious folk tradition of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg was the leading figure of the anti-folk movement of the '80s. For most of the decade, Bragg bashed out songs alone on his electric guitar, singing about politics and love. While his lyrics were bitingly intelligent and clever, they were also warm and humane, filled with detail and wit. Even though his lyrics were carefully considered, Bragg never neglected...
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