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Posts Tagged ‘Mermaid Avenue’


I don’t need to be forgiven
For something I haven’t done
Nor for wanting my family
To find their place in the sun
If you keep this pressure on
Just don’t be surprised
If I can’t summon up my dignity
While you’re roughing up my pride

There will be a reckoning
For the peddlers of hate
Who spread their poison all across this estate
And a reckoning, too, for the politicians who
Left us to this fate
There will be a reckoning

Billy Bragg, There Will Be a Reckoning


Since we’re in the midst of another Labor Day weekend, albeit one certainly not in normal times, I was listening to some Billy Bragg, the British singer who has picked up the mantle of Woody Guthrie to become the voice for workers and the downtrodden. In fact, his Guthrie connection includes the fact that he provided most of the vocals for one of my favorites albums, Mermaid Avenue. It was a collaboration between Bragg and the group Wilco to set to music and record a group of unreleased Woody Guthrie songs that were just lyrics on paper.

The result was what I consider a brilliant album. But that’s one guy’s opinion.

I came across this song from Bragg that has been bouncing around for a while but seems to have relevance for these times. It’s called There Will Be a Reckoning. In different performances Bragg has talked about how since WWII and the defeat of the fascist forces that were threatening to overtake the planet, generations of politicians have neglected to honestly address the big issues that affect the majority of the population on this planet– financial inequality, social injustice and racism, food insecurity and adequate healthcare.

They usually just kick these concerns down the road in acts of expediency.

Expediency is often just another name for cowardice.

As a result, it has created a vacuum in which those with fascist tendencies and objectives can once again begin the rise to power through the division of the population through campaigns of fear and hatred. They see the neglected problems and, though they have no plan on ever correcting the deficits, use it as a prybar to separate the masses and set one group against the other.

And quite often they succeed. And fascism gains a strong toehold and takes power. And this leaves another generation to have someday fight to stop its spread.

Yeah, if it’s not stopped, there will definitely be a reckoning.

Here’s a live version of the song from several years ago. I am playing it to let you hear Bragg’s cockney accent and a few words on the song as he introduces it. The painting at the top is my A Time For Reckoning which is still at the West End Gallery and was part of my recent show there. I think it pairs well with this song and these times.

Have a good day.


 

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Going to keep it simple this morning and just play this week’s Sunday morning music. It’s off the collaborative albums , Mermaid Avenue, from Wilco and Billy Bragg, where they took never recorded Woody Guthrie lyrics and set them to music. I’ve played a number of the songs from these albums over the years but somehow missed this favorite. It’s about a Hesitating Beauty named Nora Lee and I’ve included the lyrics below. The painting above is a piece from 2003 called Rarity of the Moment that seems to have that same feeling of unfulfilled desire as the song.


 

“Hesitating Beauty”

 

For your sparkling cocky smile I’ve walked a million miles

Begging you to come and wed me in the spring

Why do you my dear delay

What makes you laugh and turn away

You’re a hesitating beauty, Nora Lee

 

Well I know that you are itching to get married, Nora Lee

And I know how I’m twitching for the same thing, Nora Lee

By the stars and clouds above we could spend our lives in love

You’re a hesitating beauty, Nora Lee

 

We can build a house and home where the flowers come to bloom

Around our yard I’ll nail a fence so high

That the boys with peeping eyes cannot see that angel face

My hesitating beauty Nora Lee

 

Well I know that you are itching to get married Nora Lee

And I know how I’m twitching for the same thing Nora Lee

By the stars and clouds above we can spend our lives in love

If you quit your hesitating, Nora Lee

 

We can ramble hand in hand across the grasses of our land

I’ll kiss you for each leaf on every tree

We can bring our kids to play where the dry leaves blow today

If you quit your hesitating, Nora Lee

 

Well I know that you are itching to get married, Nora Lee

And I know how I’m twitching for the same thing, Nora Lee

By the stars and clouds above we could spend our lives in love

If you quit your hesitating, Nora Lee

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I only have time enough this morning to throw this song out for this week’s Sunday morning music. The song is At My Window Sad and Lonely with lyrics by Woody Guthrie. The band Wilco and singer Billy Bragg put music to these lyrics along with a number of other Guthrie songs in the Mermaid Avenue albums. The version below is an acoustic version from Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy. Nice stuff.

The image to the right is from my Outlaws series from back in 2006. This piece is called Followed. It was chosen because I think this person might be sad and lonely.

Give a listen and enjoy your Sunday…

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hundertwasser_land-of-men-birds-shipsThe painting above is titled Paradise-The Land of Men, Birds and Ships.  It’s actually a mural that was painted on a building outside of Paris in 1950 by artists Friedensreich Hundertwasser and  René Brõ.  It was saved from demolition in 1964 although I have no idea where or in what condition it now stands.  I’ve featured Hundertwasser’s work, with it’s rich colors and organic shapes, here on the blog a few times in the past.  I like his work,  I like this and thought it fit well with the song I’ve chosen for today’s Sunday Morning Music.

That song is Ships and Birds from one of my favorite albums, Wilco and Billy Bragg‘s 1998 Mermaid Avenue.  It’s a collection of old unheard Woody Guthrie lyrics set to new music composed by Wilco and others.  This track features Natalie Merchant singing the lead and is just a lovely, simple  song.  A nice way to kick off any Sunday morning.

Have a great Sunday…

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I mentioned Woody Guthrie in yesterday’s post and it reminded me of a musical release that is coming out in the next month.  It is the release of Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions from Billy Bragg and Wilco, which incorporates the remastered first two volumes from the original 1998 release with a new volume of 17 songs. 

 These sessions were the result of the Guthrie family asking singer/activist Billy Bragg along with Wilco to have a go at interpreting some of the many songs left after his death in 1967.  Guthrie didn’t read music so his unrecorded songs’ melodies were stored only in his memory, leaving only the lyrics.  But the lyrics were terrific and provided Bragg and Wilco plenty of inspiration to produce a memorable set of music.  I have used several songs here over the years and often find myself switching on Mermaid Avenue (named after the street in Brooklyn where Guthrie lived at the time of his death)  in the studio to work by.

Here’s one of my favorites, Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key.

 

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