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  • Thursday, April 19, 2012
    "Mermaid Avenue" Showcases Guthrie's "Mesmerizing Wordplay" (American Songwriter), Some of Billy Bragg, Wilco's Best (A.V. Club)

    On the acclaimed Mermaid Avenue albums, Billy Bragg and Wilco put music to lyrics by folk legend Woody Guthrie for which he had not written music or made recordings. This Saturday, Record Store Day, Nonesuch will release Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions, a three-CD-plus-DVD set including the original two volumes (the second re-mastered); a third volume with 17 previously unreleased recordings from those sessions; the 1999 documentary on the sessions, Man in the Sand; and a 48-page booklet with new liner notes by Nora Guthrie, lyrics, archival photographs, and facsimiles of lyric sheets and sketches by Woody Guthrie. Nonesuch Store pre-orders include an exclusive print of Guthrie's lyric sheet for the song "Hoodoo Voodoo."

    American Songwriter gives the collection four-and-a-half stars. Reviewer Jim Beviglia calls the original album "a revelation" and the larger project an "amazing and unique collaboration," featuring the "mesmerizing wordplay" of Guthrie's lryics. Beviglia concludes: "The Mermaid Avenue project is essential for showing that Woody Guthrie could illuminate what was going on inside of him as well as he could detail the plight of his fellow man." Read the review at americansongwriter.com.

    Rolling Stone gives Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions four stars. The original album "rewrote Woody Guthrie’s history through his unrecorded lyrics, revealing the joker, lover, boozer and horndog behind the icon," writes Rolling Stone's Will Hermes. "It let the artists rewrite themselves, too: Billy Bragg, the British folkie agitator, turned goofier ('My Flying Saucer'), while Wilco turned rootsier ('California Stars')."

    Echoing that sentiment, the Onion's A.V. Club gives the new set an A-.

    "It says a lot about what Billy Bragg and Wilco were able to accomplish with a stack of unreleased Guthrie lyrics on 1998’s Mermaid Avenue and 2000’s Mermaid Avenue Vol. II that the new box-set reissue ... seems as much of a salute to the tribute-makers as it does to the tributee," writes the A.V. Club's Steven Hyden. "Guthrie gained a new generation of listeners when the original Mermaid Avenue became a surprise hit, and the box set ... promises to do the same. But Mermaid Avenue was even more crucial to Bragg and Wilco, producing some of the best (and best-known) songs of the artists’ careers ... Mermaid Avenue may have given new life to Guthrie’s legacy, but the songs themselves belong equally to his interpreters."

    Hyden goes on to explain about this partnership of interpreters: "Whether working together or separately, Bragg and Wilco set about showcasing a uniquely human side to Guthrie’s legend while sounding only like themselves, and doing it in the most natural and least contrived 'modern' manner imaginable."

    As for the third disc of previously unreleased material, "What comes across, as always, is Bragg’s expressive plaintiveness," says Hyden, "and Wilco’s understated instrumental virtuosity."

    Read the complete review at avclub.com.

    There's just over one more day to pre-order Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions and receive the print of Guthrie's "Hoodoo Voodoo" lyric sheet. To do so, head to the Nonesuch Store now, where orders also include high-quality, 320 kbps MP3s of the album starting release day.

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"Mermaid Avenue" Showcases Guthrie's "Mesmerizing Wordplay" (American Songwriter), Some of Billy Bragg, Wilco's Best (A.V. Club)

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on April 19, 2012 - 5:07pm
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Thursday, April 19, 2012 - 14:30
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Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions, a three-CD-plus-DVD set featuring the lyrics of Woody Guthrie set to music by Billy Bragg and Wilco, is out this Saturday, Record Store Day. American Songwriter gives it four-and-a-half stars, calling the project an "amazing and unique collaboration" featuring Guthrie's "mesmerizing wordplay." Rolling Stone gives it four stars. The A.V. Club gives it an A-."Guthrie gained a new generation of listeners when the original Mermaid Avenue became a surprise hit, and the box set," says the A.V. Club, "promises to do the same. But Mermaid Avenue was even more crucial to Bragg and Wilco, producing some of the best (and best-known) songs of the artists’ careers."

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On the acclaimed Mermaid Avenue albums, Billy Bragg and Wilco put music to lyrics by folk legend Woody Guthrie for which he had not written music or made recordings. This Saturday, Record Store Day, Nonesuch will release Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions, a three-CD-plus-DVD set including the original two volumes (the second re-mastered); a third volume with 17 previously unreleased recordings from those sessions; the 1999 documentary on the sessions, Man in the Sand; and a 48-page booklet with new liner notes by Nora Guthrie, lyrics, archival photographs, and facsimiles of lyric sheets and sketches by Woody Guthrie. Nonesuch Store pre-orders include an exclusive print of Guthrie's lyric sheet for the song "Hoodoo Voodoo."

American Songwriter gives the collection four-and-a-half stars. Reviewer Jim Beviglia calls the original album "a revelation" and the larger project an "amazing and unique collaboration," featuring the "mesmerizing wordplay" of Guthrie's lryics. Beviglia concludes: "The Mermaid Avenue project is essential for showing that Woody Guthrie could illuminate what was going on inside of him as well as he could detail the plight of his fellow man." Read the review at americansongwriter.com.

Rolling Stone gives Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions four stars. The original album "rewrote Woody Guthrie’s history through his unrecorded lyrics, revealing the joker, lover, boozer and horndog behind the icon," writes Rolling Stone's Will Hermes. "It let the artists rewrite themselves, too: Billy Bragg, the British folkie agitator, turned goofier ('My Flying Saucer'), while Wilco turned rootsier ('California Stars')."

Echoing that sentiment, the Onion's A.V. Club gives the new set an A-.

"It says a lot about what Billy Bragg and Wilco were able to accomplish with a stack of unreleased Guthrie lyrics on 1998’s Mermaid Avenue and 2000’s Mermaid Avenue Vol. II that the new box-set reissue ... seems as much of a salute to the tribute-makers as it does to the tributee," writes the A.V. Club's Steven Hyden. "Guthrie gained a new generation of listeners when the original Mermaid Avenue became a surprise hit, and the box set ... promises to do the same. But Mermaid Avenue was even more crucial to Bragg and Wilco, producing some of the best (and best-known) songs of the artists’ careers ... Mermaid Avenue may have given new life to Guthrie’s legacy, but the songs themselves belong equally to his interpreters."

Hyden goes on to explain about this partnership of interpreters: "Whether working together or separately, Bragg and Wilco set about showcasing a uniquely human side to Guthrie’s legend while sounding only like themselves, and doing it in the most natural and least contrived 'modern' manner imaginable."

As for the third disc of previously unreleased material, "What comes across, as always, is Bragg’s expressive plaintiveness," says Hyden, "and Wilco’s understated instrumental virtuosity."

Read the complete review at avclub.com.

There's just over one more day to pre-order Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions and receive the print of Guthrie's "Hoodoo Voodoo" lyric sheet. To do so, head to the Nonesuch Store now, where orders also include high-quality, 320 kbps MP3s of the album starting release day.

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Billy Bragg & Wilco: "Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions" [cover]

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