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Nonesuch Celebrates Woody Guthrie Centennial with "Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions," Out April 21; Pre-Order Now

  • Wednesday, February 29, 2012
    Nonesuch Celebrates Woody Guthrie Centennial with "Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions," Out April 21; Pre-Order Now

    When American folk legend 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 English singer-songwriter and activist Billy Bragg to select some to set to music. The Chicago rock band Wilco came aboard soon after, with Jeff Tweedy writing music—along with his late bandmate Jay Bennett on some songs—and the band recording with both Tweedy and Bragg on vocals. Natalie Merchant joined the group to sing a 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.

    On Record Store Day, April 21, 2012, Nonesuch releases Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions, which includes: 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.”

    In her liner note, Nora Guthrie describes her response to finding these lyrics, which were much more personal and journal-esque than the earlier works for which Woody was best known: “I had just discovered that my father had written more song lyrics than any of us could ever imagine. (Over 3,000 when I finally did the count.) I had just discovered that he had a bad crush on Ingrid Bergman and dreamed of getting her pregnant, that he felt sorry for Hans Eisler, that he was a proud lush and a comfortable luster, that he believed in flying saucers, that he was homesick for California, that he even knew who Joe DiMaggio was let alone wrote a song about him, or that he once made out with a girl in a tree hollow when, as a kid, he bragged, ‘There ain’t nobody that can sing like me.’”

    The New York Times said of the first volume, “[Tweedy and Bragg] are the perfect pair to conclude that Guthrie, far from a predictable Popular Front totem, was a prophetic rock-and-roller with a whole lot to say. All he needed was a band and a little freedom…It says a great deal for [Bragg] that he recognized that his leftism only half-equipped him to bring it off. Woody Guthrie was as American as it gets, and [Chicago–based] Wilco provided that element as few other contemporaries could have. Wilco’s signature, a spacious stylistic sweep from blues to bluegrass, brings all this music to a life no…Brits or Nashville pros could have approached.”

    Bragg told NPR in 1998, “The words are so powerful, they’re so evocative to many people…That’s the strength of Woody, it’s the simplicity.” Tweedy added, “I’d have a really good feeling about things if [the album] did lead a certain number of people back to discover Woody Guthrie.”

    To pre-order Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions and reserve your copy of the "Hoodoo Voodoo" lyric sheet print, head to the Nonesuch Store now.

on February 29, 2012 - 10:00am
Excerpt: 

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. Tweedy and Bragg were "the perfect pair to conclude that Guthrie ... was a prophetic rock-and-roller with a whole lot to say," said the New York Times. On Record Store Day, April 21, Nonesuch will release Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions, which includes the original two volumes of Mermaid Avenue (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. Pre-orders include an exclusive print of Guthrie’s lyric sheet for “Hoodoo Voodoo.”

Copy: 

When American folk legend 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 English singer-songwriter and activist Billy Bragg to select some to set to music. The Chicago rock band Wilco came aboard soon after, with Jeff Tweedy writing music—along with his late bandmate Jay Bennett on some songs—and the band recording with both Tweedy and Bragg on vocals. Natalie Merchant joined the group to sing a 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.

On Record Store Day, April 21, 2012, Nonesuch releases Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions, which includes: 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.”

In her liner note, Nora Guthrie describes her response to finding these lyrics, which were much more personal and journal-esque than the earlier works for which Woody was best known: “I had just discovered that my father had written more song lyrics than any of us could ever imagine. (Over 3,000 when I finally did the count.) I had just discovered that he had a bad crush on Ingrid Bergman and dreamed of getting her pregnant, that he felt sorry for Hans Eisler, that he was a proud lush and a comfortable luster, that he believed in flying saucers, that he was homesick for California, that he even knew who Joe DiMaggio was let alone wrote a song about him, or that he once made out with a girl in a tree hollow when, as a kid, he bragged, ‘There ain’t nobody that can sing like me.’”

The New York Times said of the first volume, “[Tweedy and Bragg] are the perfect pair to conclude that Guthrie, far from a predictable Popular Front totem, was a prophetic rock-and-roller with a whole lot to say. All he needed was a band and a little freedom…It says a great deal for [Bragg] that he recognized that his leftism only half-equipped him to bring it off. Woody Guthrie was as American as it gets, and [Chicago–based] Wilco provided that element as few other contemporaries could have. Wilco’s signature, a spacious stylistic sweep from blues to bluegrass, brings all this music to a life no…Brits or Nashville pros could have approached.”

Bragg told NPR in 1998, “The words are so powerful, they’re so evocative to many people…That’s the strength of Woody, it’s the simplicity.” Tweedy added, “I’d have a really good feeling about things if [the album] did lead a certain number of people back to discover Woody Guthrie.”

To pre-order Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions and reserve your copy of the "Hoodoo Voodoo" lyric sheet print, head to the Nonesuch Store now.

Publish date: 
Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 15:00
Article Type: 
featuredimage: 
Billy Bragg & Wilco: "Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions" [cover + print]

Comments

I only want this if they put it out (again) on vinyl. I'm not alone. Repress this!

PLEASE PUT THIS ON VINYL!!!!!!

Only way I'm buying this is if it comes out on vinyl. Who buys cd's anymore?!

How can this NOT be released on vinyl? PLEASE do a vinyl version!

I hope that Vol. 3 will be available separately as I already own Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

This NEEDS to be on vinyl! We have never even gotten Volume 2. Come on Nonesuch! Step up to the plate!!!!!

Will Vol. III be available separately on cd or for individual purchase on itunes? Like many Wilco fans, I already own Volumes 1&2 and the dvd.

Thank you all for your suggestions of releasing the box on vinyl. As for now, the compilation is scheduled as a 3CD+DVD set. The third volume will also be available on its own digitally starting release day. We will certainly take your suggestions regarding vinyl into consideration.

Yeah, I'm going to have to assume that this will be on vinyl at a later date, because not releasing it on vinyl at all is just ludicrous.

VINYL...PLEEEEEEASSSEEE!!! With so much digital music available; I don't want this box set on CD. PLEASE print more of this on vinyl for those of us without $250 to buy the first release on vinyl. Please? Pretty Please? I just downloaded all of my CD's and said goodbye to those ugly jewel boxes and towers once and for all! Vinyl is the only way to listen to music at home and I'm sad I wasted so much money buying CDs!

If this is goign to be released on record store day, it needs to be released on vinyl. Come on! Do it! I promise to buy it!

Nonesuch - look we're begging you. How often does that happen?! You guys do such a good job with vinyl too. It needs to happen!

All of the people involved in this release usually GET the vinyl listener. This blows me away that THis release isn't getting the vinyl treatment. Come on gang, get with it!!!

CDs? why not release it on cassette? Vinyl please.

Please nonesuch - release this on vinyl.

Hi Nonesuch. I saw your response above, but I still wanted to post as another person who'll only buy this if it comes out on vinyl.

What are the dimensions of the print?

The "Hoodoo Voodoo" print will be 9"x12".

out on theses shores next week - what a find !! but so far no word about a 33 1/3 rpm edition ; I'll try to find out

Nonesuch Please go vinyl on this one. So many people would buy this on WAX. I know I would.

Vinyl Please!

You might as well save your breath on the vinyl. Three CD's worth of material translates into a very high price point on vinyl. Vinyl requires a minimum number of pressings to justify the up front costs. I doubt the record company is willing to go out on a limb for this size investment. With this being said, I would still cherish a complete set, plated and pressed at Pallas in Germany.

Vinyl, PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As noted earlier, the compilation is currently scheduled as a 3CD+DVD set, and the third volume will also be available on its own digitally starting release day. While we are no longer accepting comments on this post, we do appreciate your suggestions about a vinyl release. Thank you!

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