Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Billy Bragg to Tour in Celebration of Woody Guthrie Centennial Following Release of "Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions"
English singer-songwriter and activist Billy Bragg will launch a tour of Europe and North America this spring and summer in celebration of the life and legacy of Woody Guthrie, on the 100th anniversary of folk legend’s birth. The tour follows the Nonesuch release of Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions, on April 21, and will feature songs from that three-volume collection, in which Bragg and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy set Guthrie's words to music. The title of the tour, The Ain’t Nobody That Can Sing Like Me Tour, references the lyric to one such tune, "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key," which includes backing vocals by Natalie Merchant.
Over four months, the tour will take Bragg to concert halls and key summer festivals across the UK, Europe, the US, and Canada, including the Cambridge Folk Festival, Way Out West, the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, Oklahoma, where Guthrie was born on July 14, 1912. The North American leg of the tour begins with two nights at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago on June 22 and 23. (Prior to the tour, Bragg will perform at Wembley Arena this Friday as the very special guest of Frank Turner.) See below for all of the currently scheduled dates, and head to nonesuch.com/on-tour for more details and ticket links. Be sure to check back as well in the coming weeks, when more dates will be added as soon as they become available.
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."
Nora Guthrie and Billy Bragg were featured on the BBC Radio 4’s Today show to discuss the Mermaid Avenue project; you can hear the segment on bbc.co.uk.
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. The set is available for pre-order now in the Nonesuch Store with an exclusive print of Guthrie’s lyric sheet for “Hoodoo Voodoo.”
BILLY BRAGG ON TOUR
||Wembley Arena (w/ Frank Turner)
||John Peel Centre
||The Apple Cart Festival
||Hay-on-Wye, Wales, UK
||Old Town School of Folk Music
||Ann Arbor, MI
||Stone Mountain Arts Center
||The Music Hall
||South Burlington, VT
||Winnipeg Folk Festival
||Mariposa Folk Festival
||Woody Guthrie Folk Festival
||City Winery (w/ Steve Earle's "WoodyFest")
||New York, NY
||Cambridge Folk Festival
||Way Out West
||Strummer of Love
||Beautiful Days Festival
||Summer Sundae Weekend
||St. Ives September Festival
||St. Ives, UK