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Billy Bragg to Tour in Celebration of Woody Guthrie Centennial Following Release of "Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions"

Billy Bragg: The Ain't Nobody That Can Sing Like Me Tour

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

Apr 13 Wembley Arena (w/ Frank Turner) London, UK

May 4 John Peel Centre Suffolk, UK
May 17 Heimathafen Neukölln Berlin, GERMANY
May 18 Fabrik Hamburg, GERMANY
May 19 Faust Hanover, GERMANY
May 20 Ringkirche Wiesbaden, GERMANY
May 22 Zeche Bochum, GERMANY
May 23 Paradiso Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS
May 25 Handelsbeurs Gent, BELGIUM
May 27 Manufaktur Schorndorf, GERMANY
May 28 Club Ampere Munich, GERMANY
May 29 Viadukt Zurich, SWITZERLAND
May 31 Volkshaus Graz, AUSTRIA
Jun 1 Flex Vienna, AUSTRIA
Jun 3 The Apple Cart Festival London, UK
Jun 5 Hay Festival Hay-on-Wye, Wales, UK

Jun 22&23 Old Town School of Folk Music Chicago, IL
Jun 24 The Ark Ann Arbor, MI
Jun 26 The Birchmere Alexandria, VA
Jun 28 Somerville Theatre Somerville, MA
Jun 29 Stone Mountain Arts Center Brownfield, ME
Jun 30 The Music Hall Portsmouth, NH
Jul 1 Higher Ground South Burlington, VT
Jul 5&6 Winnipeg Folk Festival Winnipeg, MB
Jul 8 Mariposa Folk Festival Orillia, ON
Jul 10 Barrymore Theatre Madison, WI
Jul 12 Woody Guthrie Folk Festival Okemah, OK
Jul 13 City Winery (w/ Steve Earle's "WoodyFest") New York, NY
Jul 15 Avalon Theatre Easton, MD

Jul 26 Cambridge Folk Festival Cambridge, UK
Aug 11 Way Out West Gothenburg, SWEDEN
Aug 17 Strummer of Love Somerset, UK
Aug 18 Beautiful Days Festival Devon, UK
Aug 17 Summer Sundae Weekend Leicester, UK
Aug 24 Shambala Festival Northamptonshire, UK
Aug 25 Solfest Tarns, UK
Aug 26 Galtres Festival Crayke, UK
Aug 27 Voewood Festival Norfolk, UK
Sep 11 St. Ives September Festival St. Ives, UK

Comments

I was all over the original Mermaid Avenue recordings. I was a fast Wilco fan and been down with Billy since 80 and couldn't believe they were working together. The fact that it was Woody Guthrie made it that much better because I had already started my own exploration of some of his life and music.
At the time of the release, my wife and I, three children, ten and under, were struggling under the pressures brought on by things outside our family. I was fighting an ugly construction union territory war, my wife was fighting, the grass is greener over in his yard thing.
I played the album alot.
It brought a peace and joy to our lives when we really, really needed it. My children loved it, it played it in the car always. The music unified us as a family, we all seemed to recognize this and how it seperated us from the pop crowd.
To this day, Mermaid Avenue stands as part of the sound track to our lives, my kids, 23 to 15 now, still love the music, and when ever it's played, talk happily of the times, not remembering any of the turmoil. My wife sings every word, thoughtfully.
I cannot express enough graditude for this recording. I am a carpenter, and I love real music.This work to me exemplifies the living nature of music, over time and generations, even oceans, a universal theme of something good.
I know the making of these recordings was difficult for everyone involved. I just hope after all these years everyone can put the bad stuff behind them and focus on the amazing thing they were able to do together.
I will do my best to catch Billy at Mariposa this summer, til then cheers.

Sincerely R

P.S. my fathers registered name was also Billy not William!

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