Tuesday 16 December 2014
Billy Bragg and Wilco weren't a collaboration that I had ever considered prior to hearing the news that they had collaborated on an album of songs where they had put to music some of the thousand plus sets of lyrics that Woody Guthrie had completed but not put to music or published in his lifetime. When the first volume of the "Mermaid Avenue" was released in 1998 I didn't buy it straight off as at that time it didn't really appeal to me it wasn't until a couple of years later that one Sunday while wandering round Fopp I decided to take a punt on it as it was at a bargain price as part of the promotion for the second volume in what ended up being a trilogy of releases. Even then I still had a few reservations as I hadn't heard any of it but I was pleasantly surprised when I got home and put it on. One thing about the album though, is you do have to really listen as it's all in the lyrics, sure the music complements them but the clever, funny, incredibly honest words are what this album and the other two volumes are all about and for that reason alone I don't listen to them as often as they warrant as you need to take time out sit down and just listen which is a luxury in short supply these days.
California Stars is one of my favourite tracks from the first volume, a song according to Nora Guthrie, Woody's daughter who first approached both Bragg and Wilco asking them to look at her father's lyrics, is about Woody being homesick for California where he amongst thousands of others from his native Oklahoma moved to during the 30s.
Billy Bragg and Wilco - California Stars