1998’s Mermaid Avenue rewrote Woody Guthrie’s history through his unrecorded lyrics, revealing the joker, lover, boozer and horndog behind the icon. It let the artists rewrite themselves, too: Billy Bragg, the British folkie agitator, turned goofier (“My Flying Saucer”), while Wilco turned rootsier (“California Stars”). The selling point of this four-disc set is a third CD of new songs – weaker than the first two despite some gems like Bragg’’s deeply English ballad “Go Down to the Water” – and a DVD documentary that shows the rocky road to lasting art.
Listen to ‘Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Collection’:
• Photos: Random Notes