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  • Friday, November 29, 2013
    All Three "Mermaid Avenue" Volumes Now on Vinyl

    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, and, more than a decade later, for Record Store Day 2012, Nonesuch Records released Vol. III, comprising 17 previously unreleased recordings made during the original sessions, as part of a three-CD-plus-DVD set, Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions.

    Now, to coincide with Record Store Day's Back to Black Friday today, Nonesuch has reissued the first two Mermaid Avenue volumes on vinyl and released, for the first time, the third volume on vinyl. Each volume is pressed on 2-LP, 180-gram vinyl at Pallas MFG in Diepholz, Germany. To take home all three, head to the Nonesuch Store, where LP orders include downloads of the complete albums at checkout.

    In her liner note to the Complete Sessions set, Nora Guthrie describes her response to finding her father's 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.”

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All Three "Mermaid Avenue" Volumes Now on Vinyl

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on November 26, 2013 - 11:29am
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Friday, November 29, 2013 - 16:00
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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. Nonesuch Records has now reissued the first two volumes on vinyl and release, for the first time on vinyl, a third volume comprising 17 previously unreleased recordings made during the original sessions, which was first released in the 2012 three-CD-plus-DVD set Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions. Each volume is pressed on 2-LP, 180-gram vinyl at Pallas MFG in Diepholz, Germany. 

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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, and, more than a decade later, for Record Store Day 2012, Nonesuch Records released Vol. III, comprising 17 previously unreleased recordings made during the original sessions, as part of a three-CD-plus-DVD set, Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions.

Now, to coincide with Record Store Day's Back to Black Friday today, Nonesuch has reissued the first two Mermaid Avenue volumes on vinyl and released, for the first time, the third volume on vinyl. Each volume is pressed on 2-LP, 180-gram vinyl at Pallas MFG in Diepholz, Germany. To take home all three, head to the Nonesuch Store, where LP orders include downloads of the complete albums at checkout.

In her liner note to the Complete Sessions set, Nora Guthrie describes her response to finding her father's 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.”

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Billy Bragg & Wilco: Mermaid Avenue, Vols 1-3

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