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Mermaid Avenue

music reviewmusic reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Mermaid Avenue

Artist: Billy Bragg and Wilco
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: June 1998
Note(s): Nominated for a 1999 Grammy for Best Folk Album

Review by LarryG
4 stars out of 4

You could imagine that an album of songs set to previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics would be well made and serious--but who would have thought it would be so much fun! Taken together with 1996's Being There and 1999's Summerteeth, Mermaid Avenue makes a good argument for Wilco being the best band around. The music is always respectful and not jarringly anachronistic to the 40's traditionialism of Guthrie's words, yet the songs are still great 90's folk pop. California Stars and At My Window Sad and Lonely find the beauty and simplicity that Wilco writer Jeff Tweedy has shot for and recently approached. Hesitating Beauty and Hoodoo Voodoo are great fun. For Wilco it's another great piece of work, for Billy Bragg, it's a real revelation. His last album, William Bloke, was fairly lifeless and showed clear signs that he was slipping into irrelevance. He shows a sense of humor in his songs and singing which meshes perfectly with Guthrie's. Bragg has a great time with Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key's goofy boast, "Aint nobody that can sing like me." He's clearly invigorated by having a good band behind him. After years of trying to write the perfect political song, he's got two here which work musically and lyrically: the feminist She Came Along To Me and the union song I Guess I Planted.

Here's what others reviewers have to say:

"...The combination feels nostalgic and contemporary at once, like a good rabble-rousing speech--or a snatch of Americana suddenly recalled years after you thought it'd passed forever from memory. 8 (out of 10)"   Spin 9/98, p.184



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