Tuesday, 16 December 2014

California Stars



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

6 comments:

The Swede said...

By several accounts the Bragg/Wilco working relationship wasn't always a harmonious one, which explains why there was no live work to support the releases. Whatever their internal differences, however, they managed to produce a superb series of albums that are a credit to all involved and honour Woody's legacy. 'California Stars' is definitely one of the best half dozen tracks from the sessions and it's a joy to hear it again.

george said...

A great album Drew. For me, the music is just as important, somehow drawing attention to the lyrics. I've not heard the third album, did't know there was one, but I do remember being disappointed with the 2nd.

Simon said...

This past year - where I've been delving into country and country influenced thing+s, like yer man Ryan Adams, I've been listening to a lot of Wilco. Always quite liked them, but never went mad. The Guthrie things were one of the ingredients that led me going 'americana' mad this year.

Simon said...

There's good stuff on all their albums though, from the country rock to the Beckish pop to the weirder stuff. Like em a lot.

charity chic said...

Like George I never knew there was a third one. Must investigate further

Brian said...

I have seen Wilco about 10 times, and they have never failed to play this one. It's clearly a fan and band favorite.