Billy Bragg Launches North American Tour in Celebration of Woody Guthrie Centennial
Published: 22/06/2012 by: www.nonesuch.com
English singer-songwriter and activist Billy Bragg launches his tour of North America this weekend in celebration of the life and legacy of Woody Guthrie, on the 100th anniversary of folk legend’s birth. The tour follows the April 21 release of Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions on Nonesuch Records and features songs from that three-volume collection, in which Billy Bragg and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy set Guthrie's words to music, as well as favorites from throughout Bragg's career. The title of the tour, The Ain’t Nobody That Can Sing Like Me Tour, references the lyric to one such tune, "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key," which includes backing vocals by Natalie Merchant.
The tour begins in the Midwest with two shows at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, tonight and tomorrow night (and a songwriting workshop at the Old Town School Saturday morning), followed by a Sunday night show at The Ark in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In advance of this weekend's concerts, Bragg spoke with the Chicago Sun-Times and with AnnArbor.com. "It isn’t easy always being mentioned in the same breath as Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Harry Belafonte and Joe Strummer," writes AnnArbor contributor Will Stewart. "Thankfully for him—and us—Bragg can easily hold his own in the company of any songwriter."
Following Billy Bragg's spring tour of Europe, the North American leg takes him to concert halls and summer festivals across the US and Canada, including the Ottawa Blues Festival, Winnipeg Folk Festival, and the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in Okemah, Oklahoma, where Guthrie was born on July 14, 1912. Bragg returns to Europe at the end of July and will play across the UK through the end of the summer. See below for all of the currently scheduled dates, and head to nonesuch.com/on-tour for more details and ticket links.
When Woody Guthrie died in 1967, at the age of 55, among his stored belongings were thousands of complete song lyrics for which he had not written out music or made recordings. Many of them had been written in the 1940s and ’50s, in the Guthrie family home on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island, Brooklyn. The lyrics remained in boxes for decades, but once his daughter Nora found them in the 1990s, she knew they had to be shared. She approached Bragg to select some to set to music. Wilco came aboard soon after, with Tweedy writing music—along with his late bandmate Jay Bennett on some songs—and the band recording with both Tweedy and Bragg on vocals. Merchant joined the group to sing the duet with Bragg and two solo songs, and guitarist/singer Corey Harris, who wrote two songs and co-wrote one, performed on many tracks. In 1998, the first batch of songs was released to critical acclaim as Mermaid Avenue, receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Mermaid Avenue Vol. II followed in 2000.
"I first met Nora in July 1992, at a concert in Central Park, New York, to commemorate Woody’s 80th birthday," Bragg recalls. "She began sending me lyrics of her father’s unrecorded songs, encouraging me to write new music and make a collaborative album. Her initiative finally bore fruit in 1997, when I got together with Wilco in Chicago and Dublin, where we recorded nearly 50 ‘new’ Woody Guthrie songs."
Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions, released in April, includes the original Mermaid Avenue; Mermaid Avenue Vol. II (re-mastered); Mermaid Avenue Vol. III, comprising 17 previously unreleased recordings made during the Mermaid Avenue sessions; director Kim Hopkins’ 1999 film Man in the Sand, which documents those sessions; and a 48-page booklet with new liner notes by Nora Guthrie, full lyrics, archival photographs, and facsimiles of lyric sheets and sketches by Woody Guthrie. To pick up a copy, head to the Nonesuch Store, where CD orders include instant downloads of the album at checkout.
BILLY BRAGG ON TOUR
Jun 22&23 Old Town School of Folk Music Chicago, IL
Jun 24 The Ark Ann Arbor, MI
Jun 26 The Birchmere Alexandria, VA
Jun 28 Somerville Theatre Somerville, MA
Jun 29 Stone Mountain Arts Center Brownfield, ME
Jun 30 The Music Hall Portsmouth, NH
Jul 1 Higher Ground South Burlington, VT
Jul 3 Métropolis Montreal, QC
Jul 4 Ottawa Blues Fest Ottawa, ON
Jul 5&6 Winnipeg Folk Festival Winnipeg, MB
Jul 8 Mariposa Folk Festival Orillia, ON
Jul 10 Barrymore Theatre Madison, WI
Jul 12 Woody Guthrie Folk Festival Okemah, OK
Jul 13 City Winery (w/ Steve Earle's "WoodyFest") New York, NY
Jul 15 Avalon Theatre Easton, MD
Jul 26 Cambridge Folk Festival Cambridge, UK
Aug 10 Way Out West Gothenburg, SWEDEN
Aug 17 Strummer of Love Somerset, UK
Aug 18 Beautiful Days Festival Devon, UK
Aug 19 Summer Sundae Weekend Leicester, UK
Aug 24 Shambala Festival Northamptonshire, UK
Aug 25 Solfest Tarns, UK
Aug 26 Galtres Festival Crayke, UK
Aug 27 Voewood Festival Norfolk, UK
Sep 11 St. Ives September Festival St. Ives, UK
Sep 12 The Park & Dare Theatre Treochy, UK
Sep 14 O2 ABC Glasgow, UK
Sep 16 Queen Elizabeth Hall London, UK
Sep 17 Vicar Street Dublin, IRELAND
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