Billy Bragg to Close Out North American Tour with Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebrations in Oklahoma and New York
This Saturday, July 14, 2012, marks what would have been folk legend Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday, the focal point of a yearlong celebration of the centenary, which includes the April release of the 3CD/DVD set Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions on Nonesuch Records. Billy Bragg, who, with Wilco, put music to Guthrie's words on the acclaimed Mermaid Avenue albums, has been traveling across North America performing songs from the albums on his Ain't Nobody That Can Sing Like Me tour, which culminates this weekend.
Bragg begins a four-day stretch of birthday events tonight in the town where Woody Guthrie's life began, Okemah, Oklahoma, to take part in the 15th annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, a free celebration of the town's favorite son. Bragg plays today's final set on the main, "Pastures of Plenty" stage.
Next up, Bragg heads to Guthrie's adopted hometown of New York City on Friday to play the closing show of the three-night WoodyFest at City Winery. Hosted by Steve Earle, the concerts feature a number of special guest performers, including Tim Robbins for last night's opening show and Rachael Yamagata and Allen Toussaint tonight. Also performing on Friday are Amy Helm and Joe Purdy.
On Saturday, for the 100th birthday itself, the celebration moves to Coney Island, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Woody Guthrie's Mermaid Avenue home, where his daughter Nora discovered the lyrics she would present to Bragg to set to music. At 4 PM, the Coney Island Museum hosts a free screening of director Kim Hopkins’ 1999 film Man in the Sand, which documents the Mermaid Avenue recording sessions and is included on DVD in The Complete Sessions set. Seating capacity for the screening is limited to 100 on a first-come, first-served basis. Following the film, there will be a book signing by Nora Guthrie and CD signing by Billy Bragg, with both items available for purchase.
Shortly thereafter, at 7 PM, Bragg joins Steve Earle for a free outdoor performance at West 12th Street and the Boardwalk. The set precedes a free outdoor screening of the 1976 film Bound for Glory, directed by Hal Ashby and starring David Carradine, which tells Guthrie's life story; the film screening is set to begin at 8:45 PM.
Billy Bragg closes out the weekend's festivities and his US tour with a performance at the Avalon Theatre in Easton, Maryland, on Sunday. That evening, back in New York City, the Guthrie family—Arlo, Abe, Cathy, Annie, Sarah Lee and Jonny Irion—gather at Central Park's SummerStage to perform a free tribute concert to Guthrie.
For more information on all of the Woody Guthrie centennial activities, which continue through 2012, go to woody100.com and visit the official Woody Guthrie website at woodyguthrie.org. For details on Billy Bragg's upcoming European tour, also featuring the music of Mermaid Avenue, go to nonesuch.com/on-tour. To pick up a copy of Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions, head to the Nonesuch Store, where orders include instant downloads of the albums at checkout.