Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Billy Bragg Launches Tour of New Zealand & Australia Celebrating Woody Guthrie Centenary with Songs of "Mermaid Avenue"
English singer-songwriter and activist Billy Bragg launches a tour of New Zealand and Australia this Friday, October 12, in celebration of the life and legacy of Woody Guthrie, on the 100th anniversary of the folk legend’s birth. The tour follows the Nonesuch release of Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions, this past April, and the shows will feature songs from that three-volume collection, in which Bragg and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy set Guthrie's words to music, as well as songs from throughout Bragg's almost 30-year career.
The first tour concert, at Auckland Town Hall Friday night, follows a free in-store event at Real Groovy in Auckland hosted by TV3's Ali Ikramand on Thursday evening. The New Zealand tour also includes stops in Wellington, Dunedin, and Christchurch, where he will play a concert to benefit BeatBox, part of the city's reconstruction efforts after last year's earthquake. The Australia leg of the tour kicks off with two concerts in Melbourne: the first, at Hamer Hall, celebrating Guthrie, the second, at the Recital Centre, showcasing Bragg's own songs; in between the two, Bragg will sign CDs and books at Readings St. Kilda. The tour continues into November with stops in Hobart, Canberra, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, and Perth, as well as a return to Melbourne. See below for all of the currently scheduled dates ahead; for additional details and ticket links, go to nonesuch.com/on-tour.
When Woody Guthrie died in 1967, at the age of 55, among his stored belongings were thousands of complete song lyrics for which he had not written out music or made recordings. Many of them had been written in the 1940s and ’50s, in the Guthrie family home on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island, Brooklyn. The lyrics remained in boxes for decades, but once his daughter Nora found them in the 1990s, she knew they had to be shared. She approached Bragg to select some to set to music. Wilco came aboard soon after, with Tweedy writing music—along with his late bandmate Jay Bennett on some songs—and the band recording with both Tweedy and Bragg on vocals. Merchant joined the group to sing the duet with Bragg and two solo songs, and guitarist/singer Corey Harris, who wrote two songs and co-wrote one, performed on many tracks. In 1998, the first batch of songs was released to critical acclaim as Mermaid Avenue, receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Mermaid Avenue Vol. II followed in 2000.
"I first met Nora in July 1992, at a concert in Central Park, New York, to commemorate Woody’s 80th birthday," Bragg recalls. "She began sending me lyrics of her father’s unrecorded songs, encouraging me to write new music and make a collaborative album. Her initiative finally bore fruit in 1997, when I got together with Wilco in Chicago and Dublin, where we recorded nearly 50 ‘new’ Woody Guthrie songs."
Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions includes the original Mermaid Avenue; Mermaid Avenue Vol. II (re-mastered); Mermaid Avenue Vol. III, comprising 17 previously unreleased recordings made during the Mermaid Avenue sessions; director Kim Hopkins’ 1999 film Man in the Sand, which documents those sessions; and a 48-page booklet with new liner notes by Nora Guthrie, full lyrics, archival photographs, and facsimiles of lyric sheets and sketches by Woody Guthrie. To pick up a copy, head to the Nonesuch Store now.
BILLY BRAGG ON TOUR
||Real Groovy in-store event
||Auckland, NEW ZEALAND
||Auckland Town Hall
||Auckland, NEW ZEALAND
||The Opera House
||Wellington, NEW ZEALAND
||Otago Festival of the Arts
||Dunedin, NEW ZEALAND
||Christchurch, NEW ZEALAND
||Readings St. Kilda in-store event
||St. Kilda, AUSTRALIA
||Melbourne Recital Centre
||Federation Concert Hall