Nonesuch have reissued the first two Mermaid Avenue volumes on vinyl and released, for the first time, the third volume on vinyl. This whole set was hugely popular helped by the fantastic story behind it and the perfect pairing of Billy Bragg and Wilco. When Woody Guthrie died in 1967 he left behind boxes of completed lyrics he had not yet written music for. It wasn’t until the 1990’s when Woody’s daughter Nora found them was a decision made to share them. The honour of putting music to them was passed to Billy Bragg with Wilco coming on board later on. The album took it’s name from Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island, Brooklyn. It was here in the 1940s and ’50s that Woody penned most of the songs.
In 1998, the first batch of songs was released to critical acclaim as Mermaid Avenue, receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Mermaid Avenue Vol. II followed in 2000, and, more than a decade later, for Record Store Day 2012, Nonesuch Records released Vol. III, comprising 17 previously unreleased recordings made during the original sessions, as part of a three-CD-plus-DVD set, Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions.
In her liner note to the Complete Sessions set, Nora Guthrie describes her response to finding her father’s lyrics, which were much more personal and journal-esque than the earlier works for which Woody was best known: “I had just discovered that my father had written more song lyrics than any of us could ever imagine. (Over 3,000 when I finally did the count.) I had just discovered that he had a bad crush on Ingrid Bergman and dreamed of getting her pregnant, that he felt sorry for Hans Eisler, that he was a proud lush and a comfortable luster, that he believed in flying saucers, that he was homesick for California, that he even knew who Joe DiMaggio was let alone wrote a song about him, or that he once made out with a girl in a tree hollow when, as a kid, he bragged, ‘There ain’t nobody that can sing like me.’”