Mermaid Avenue, Vol. II
The sequel to 1998's Mermaid Avenue, Vol. 1 continued its predecessor's effort to reinvent Woody Guthrie in the popular imagination. Billy Bragg and Wilco concocted both albums using old Guthrie lyrics and newly written folk and rock tunes. Listeners get a glimpse of Woody the familiar rabble-rouser in Bragg's "All You Fascists" and "Against th' Law." But more often, these songs show previously unseen sides of the iconic troubadour. Wilco's Jeff Tweedy plucks the most interesting material, including the spare, reflective "Someday Some Morning Sometime," the pretty religious ballad "Blood of the Lamb," the goofy, kid-friendly anthem "Joe DiMaggio Done It Again," and, above all, the spellbinding "Remember the Mountain Bed." On this last number, Tweedy's pensive rendition of Guthrie's 11 romantic verses—and the band's subtly gorgeous backdrop of piano, organ, and acoustic guitar—make for one of Wilco's most essential tracks.