Album of the Day
When Woody Guthrie's daughter wanted music added to some of her father's unrecorded lyrics, she made a savvy choice in U.K. troubadour Billy Bragg, who in turn enlisted alt-country group Wilco to help. Asked to give Guthrie's words a contemporary framework rather than imitate the folk legend, the performers came up with the remarkably effective MERMAID AVENUE, released 20 years ago on Elektra Records. Drawn from hundreds of manuscripts penned from the late-1930s to the mid-1960s, these 15 tracks include protest anthems, love ballads and children's songs, with lead vocals split between Bragg and Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy. “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key,” “California Stars” and “Birds and Ships” (with guest singer Natalie Merchant) are just a few of the gems on MERMAID AVENUE, which earned a Grammy nomination and a place on innumerable 1998 year-end best-of lists.