Sun. Jan 23rd, 2022

My absolute favorite kind of record is one that I can listen to in any mood. When I’m excited and happy, I can turn to track 6. When I’m angry, track 7. When I’m upset, track 2. When that album has anything to do with Wilco, it automatically falls under the “must-have” category of any record collection. Billy Bragg, everyone’s favorite 1980s anti-folkist, teams up with Wilco, the only modern American-alternative-country band worth knowing, in the ever-charming Mermaid Avenue. Though the15 tracks of Mermaid Avenue are merely performances by Bragg and Wilco which are based on unreleased musical pieces by Woody Guthrie, this album speaks of momentous originality. Each track goes back and forth, beginning with Bragg’s rendition of a song and then alternating to a performance by Wilco. Though Bragg and Wilco have similar musical styles, their performances are one in a million on each and every track.

Songs which reek of politics, love and even a comedic rendezvous with Walt Whitman’s niece give this album something that neither a one-man album of Bragg’s nor a record by Wilco could deliver solely on their own. Bragg’s lowly tone and hum-drum melodies are reminiscent of old folk songs but Bragg’s inspiration is purely punk-rock and roll as heard in such songs as “Walt Whitman’s Niece” and “I Guess I Planted.” The sporadic, good-times feel to Wilco shines through on several tracks such as “Hoodoo Voodoo” and “Christ for President.” A mixture such as this only comes once in a lifetime, and to pass up Mermaid Avenue is nothing less than tragic.

For the sappy among us, Wilco takes the cake. It’s as heartfelt as it gets when lead singer Jeff Tweedy plucks not only his guitar strings, but those of my heart. “One by One” and “At My Window Sad and Lonely” will move you to no end but also make you content with silly symbolic tunes such as “Ingrid Bergman,” done by Mr. Bragg.

Two extremely influential and talented musical God-sends have proven, yet again, that they can do no wrong. Proving points, breaking hearts and pleasing listeners are just a few attributes to these bands, these songs and this incredible album. This record is one for the ages and I’m sure will stand the test of time and deserves to be placed on your iPod. The album was originally released in 1998 and may be hard to get a hold of. In that case, you can always purchase music from the band’s websites: www.billybrag.co.uk, www.wilcoweb.com and www.myspace.com/wilco, the latter of which you can find great photos and song samples.

Open your musical minds and allow Mermaid Avenue in. This album is purely a magnificent collaboration that has gone underappreciated, even in its prime in the late 90’s. Consider it an investment; it will never lose its original worth.

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