Daily Archives: April 14, 2009

93. Billy Bragg & Wilco- “Mermaid Avenue 2”

In the movie world sequels are typically regarded as pretty dodgy territory, as the creativity dries up and studios just cash in past glories.

In the music world there really isn’t too much precedent for the concept of sequels, other than the notoriously difficult second album in an act’s career.

billy-bragg-and-wilco-mermaid-avenue-album-cover-twoThis second dive into the Woody Guthrie archives by Bragg and Wilco is much more like its movie brethren.  But the risk of diminishing returns has been avoided completely. 

The success of this albums rests on not trying to replicate album one.  The guys have tackled quite different tunes, and with a distinctive and I would say stronger approach. 

This album is much rockier and modern than its predecessor.  More of the tracks sound like they could have been written yesterday rather than six decades earlier. It manages to sound more fun, more coherent and yet more sophisticated. 

The decision to bring some extra lead vocalists means they can take the songs even further away from blokey folk.  Natalie Merchant’s effort sounds like it came straight out of the Malvina Reynold’s songbook (she of Little Boxes fame). Corey Harris also delivers some welcome bluesy vocals.

File under: The Empire Strikes Back of the Mermaid Avenue series.