100 Best Albums of the Nineties
Billy Bragg and Wilco, 'Mermaid Avenue'
It could have turned into a reverential school project — earnest folk rockers dutifully writing music for lyrics left behind by the sainted Woody Guthrie. But Mermaid Avenue is a loose, rollicking set that brings the best out of everyone involved. On "California Stars," Wilco deftly capture Guthrie's sweet, poetic side, while Bragg and Natalie Merchant duet affectionately on "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key." This album celebrates Guthrie by putting listeners in touch with a flesh-and-blood man, not a museum piece.
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