Tuesday, December 23, 2008

California Stars

A most remarkable musical undertaking was initiated in 1995, when Nora Guthrie, the daughter of the late, legendary American folk-music icon Woody, contacted British folk-rock iconoclast Billy Bragg and alt-country stalwarts Wilco to instate an assemblage of previously unreleased lyrics written by her father to newly written music. This resulted in the astonishing, highly acclaimed "Mermaid Avenue", which saw the light of day in June 1998. The album itself is an all-round brilliant, riveting collection of contemporary folk-rock songs that breathed new, vigorous life into Guthrie's invariably poetic verses. One of the highlights of "Mermaid Avenue" is the easy-going, nonchalant "California Stars", an anecdote of guarded optimism and devotional romance, set to a resonant, jangly structure reminsicent of "Murmur"-era R.E.M. (but more melodic and less obtuse). Check out a virtuosic performance of this minor gem by Wilco on the "Sessions at West 54th" variety programme.


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