A truer example of "roots rock" than most, Mermaid Avenue reaches back to archived Woody Guthrie lyric sheets whose melodies were lost upon Guthrie's 1967 death. On what Billy Bragg calls "not a tribute album but a collaboration" between Guthrie, himself, and the members of Wilco, the great songwriter's immediacy is revived by varied rock and folk settings. The result underscores our loss while giving Guthrie's legacy a joyous shake. In these songs, Guthrie considers women's wisdom ("She Came Along to Me") and playfully longs to get in on Ingrid Bergman's indiscretions, proposes a radical "Christ for President," and strings together meaningful nonsense words for kids ("Hoodoo Voodoo," which in this treatment with Jeff Tweedy's vocal forges a link between Guthrie and the garage rock his follower Bob Dylan so deeply imprinted). Best of all, Mermaid Avenue pays the most knowing kind of tribute; it never treats Guthrie as too holy.