Review Summary: Mermaid Avenue, Volume II sounds like a major-label release from either of the contributing artists (Billy Bragg or Wilco, respectively), but true-to-form it is the spirit of Woody Guthrie that shines through.
Music brings people together. Even people as seemingly strange as Billy Bragg and Wilco!
The title of the album is taken from a Woody Guthrie song of the same name; “Mermaid Avenue” is a place “where sweet meets sour” and “where the saints and sinners meet.” (But where “there has never been a mermaid." But I digress.)
Released in the year 2000, Mermaid Avenue, Volume II is a celebration of the folk icon Woody Guthrie, who lent his pen posthumously to Billy Bragg and Wilco for the major-label folk-release of the century.
Music brings people together, but it can also set them apart. For me, what sets folk music apart is its topical lyrical content, down-home instrumentation, and less-than-choral vocal delivery. Not exactly terms of endearment for most, but for the few, folk music can be as rich as it is dirty to the masses.
The appeal of Mermaid Avenue, Volume II is twofold. First, Woody Guthrie wrote good songs that you probably never heard. Finally, Billy Bragg, Jeff Tweedy and others make good music. Never mind that there are a lot of fascists on this site who will disagree with me! You fascists are bound to lose! (See “All you fascists” for clarification.)
For those uninitiated, Woody Guthrie was an American original. Known for his “rage against the machine” political views as well as his signature catch-phrase “This Guitar Kills Fascists,” his art was a reflection of the quasi-socialist sentiments that swept the nation like a wind in the wake of the great depression/the dust bowl. Guthrie would become best known for his greatest contribution to song, “This Land is Your Land,” which was recently featured as one of TIME magazine’s 100 Greatest Songs, alongside the incomparable Lil Wayne. (Lil Jon says, “Yeahhh!”)
Mermaid Avenue, Volume II is Billy Bragg and Wilco’s attempt to rewrite the legacy of Woody Guthrie.
Woody Guthrie, musical genius.
Rather than redo what is considered to be the Guthrie-canon, Bragg, Tweedy et al. have created a new canon of Guthrie songs. The canon includes political songs (“Stetson Kennedy”), human rights songs (“Black Wind Blowing”), as well as spiritual songs (“Blood of the Lamb”).
Mermaid Avenue, Volume II sounds like a major-label release from either of the contributing artists (Billy Bragg or Wilco, respectively), but true-to-form it is the spirit of Woody Guthrie that shines through.
Airline to Heaven
Remember the Mountain Bed
Secrets of the Sea