Mermaid Avenue- A Tribute to a Tribute
An all-star local band will perform in its entirety Mermaid Avenue, the 1998 tribute to some of the unfinished business of Woody Guthrie, by Billy Bragg and Wilco.
Mermaid Avenue, on Coney Island, was where Guthrie moved with his family after being discharged from the Army following World War II. Postwar was his most fertile period as a songwriter. From 1939 until his death in 1967, he wrote more than 1,000 sets of lyrics for which he never recorded melodies (as he didn’t write music).
After he performed a Guthrie tribute concert on the Central Park Summerstage in 1992, Billy Bragg was invited by Nora Guthrie, Woody’s daughter, to put some of his previously unrecorded songs to music. Bragg recruited Jeff Tweedy and the late Jay Bennett of Wilco to help him sift through and select the songs and sonically flesh them out. Eventually, they recorded 47 songs; 15 of them were chosen for Mermaid Avenue, the album. It earned a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album and placed fourth in the Village Voice’s 1998 Pazz & Jop critics’ poll. It was followed in 2000 by Mermaid Avenue Vol. II (and another Grammy nomination). In 2012, a box set, Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions, was released to commemorate Guthrie’s 100th birthday, incorporating the two volumes, a previously unreleased third disc, and a documentary DVD, Man in the Sand: The Making of Mermaid Avenue.
The show is being produced by vocalist Rebecca Scotka, who also presented a local all-star performance of The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo in 2018. Other performers playing the Guthrie/Bragg/Wilco tribute will include:
Other special guests will include Saul Fussiner, Lys Guillorn, Shellye Valauskas, Barb Shepard, Kedric Becker, Loralee Geil, Chris Bousquet (American Elm) and Fran Fried.