Thursday, February 28, 2008

Billy Bragg & Wilco - Mermaid Avenue

So I've posted about Whiskeytown, I've posted a few Wilco records, how have I not posted about this record!!? I don't know and hopefully if you listen you will see how it's challenging to do so. On the other hand, however, this is just a blog so I should take it easy. By the way, although a very minor accomplishment, I can play California Stars on my guitar.

Mermaid Avenue is one of my favorite records, that could be why it's here. Released in 1998, the record is a collection of unrecorded songs by the American legend and folk artist known as Woody Guthrie. On this record, Billy Bragg and Wilco collaborate to play them. It's inception came when Nora Guthrie (Woody's daughter) approached Billy Bragg about the idea. Nora wanted new musicians and music lovers to familiarize themselves with the type of music in hopes of generating a positive influence on today's musicans and music lovers.

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Billy Bragg & Wilco - Mermaid Avenue

The record is bouquet of romantic, political, and fun pieces. The vocals are done by Billy Bragg and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, which put together an American and British mix of sound. The songs powerful by music and/or lyric all the time. Up till now I haven't introduced Billy Bragg, but the two sentence edit is that he is a live and rockin' British singer/songwriter whose songs are usually romantic or political or both. He's actually extremely active in different movements within British policy I mean, check this out. If anyone wants to know more or sample some of his own work please let me know as I have a few records of his solo work. At that point I'll do a better job in his introduction. This post isn't about Billy Bragg.

I'm doing a shitty job with this post. Maybe really, I don't have the skills to convey how I really feel about it. I just want to share it with people who are looking for it or looking for a new sound that makes you believe that love exists, pain can succeed, and also that hope is not always waste of time - the record is proof of these claims within the axioms of my universe. ;-)

Some of the greats in here are, in no particular order: Walt Whitman's Niece, Way Over Yonder in The Minor Key (which is fun to sing along to), She Came Along to Me (my current favorite in the record), At my Window Sad and Lonely, One by One (one of the most heartbreaking songs), and Another Man's Done Gone (Tweedy greatness exemplified).

And thats all I've got to say about that. (just recently watched Forrest Gump again)


terry said...

how effective do you think were Wilco and Billy Bragg in blending together their collective talents? this is a good album IMHO, but not great. i don't sense a great "blessed union of souls" between Bragg and Tweedy.

collapsaform said...

Well I never called them a "blessed union of souls," not sure where you got that.

Some of the songs are more owned by Tweedy and others are more owned by Bragg. It depends what you call "effective."

Maybe I'm just talking about this record from my heart and exploiting the feelings the songs evoke. A lot of the songs I associate with some pretty happy and grimly miserable moments in my life.

Aside from that I think both of them have badass voices. Their musical style coupled with the lyrics on the tracks make some really great friggin' music.

The fact that they created this record and have given me the momentum to write about this and engage in a reply to you, I'd say that makes them as effective as possible.

I wonder what they would call effective. How much more or how much less would my reaction need to be for them to consider themselves effective? Thats the more interesting question, IMHO.

terry said...

i probably didn't write that first comment well. i think Mermaid Avenue is a good album.

whenever two rather-different groups/artists collaborate on a project like this (see Alison Krauss & Robert Plant, for example) the cliché that's always rolled out is "they blended so perfectly together".

i didn't feel that way here. as you point out, there are Tweedy songs, and there are Bragg songs. but nothing in between. so i got the feeling there wasn't that 'cosmic oneness' between them.

does that make it a bad album? heavens, no. i still it's one of the best alt-folk albums in the past 10 years. but i think that reflects how talented both Bragg and Tweedy are; not how well they worked with each other.

have you listened to Mermaid Avenue 2? it would be interesting to see if that's "more of the same", or if there was more synergy between them the second time around.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot, I love Wilco!