July 14 of this year will be the 100-year anniversary of the birth of legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie and Billy Bragg has announced on his website some special plans to commemorate the event. You may remember Billy Bragg teamed with Wilco for two albums worth of songs taken from recovered Guthrie lyrics, 1998’s Mermaid Avenue and 2000’s Mermaid Avenue Volume II. A couple Wilco staples, “Airline To Heaven” and California Stars” came from these sessions.
Bragg has announced that Nonesuch will offer up a four-disc set to commemorate Guthrie, titled Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions. The first two discs will offer up the previously released two volumes of the series, but most exciting is what is present on disc three: the previously unreleased Mermaid Avenue Volume III. Containing 17 previously unreleased songs, Volume III is made up of tunes from the original recording sessions, picking up in the spirit that the others left off. Disc four of the collection will offer up the 1999 documentary about the Mermaid Avenue recoding sessions, titled Man In The Sand.
No release date has been set, nor do we know whether Mermaid Avenue Volume III will be available on its own or just as a box set, but Bragg does add that he will be playing some shows in support of this release, noting:
As part of this year of celebration, I will be doing a number of shows which will focus on the legacy of Woody Guthrie as expressed through the Mermaid Avenue songs. I’ll be playing acoustic instruments and singing from the book of lyrics which I compiled from the archives and used during the sessions, quoting from Woody’s handwritten notes that are often tagged onto the manuscripts.
Hopefully, he can convince Wilco to join him for some of these shows. We’ll update you when more information is known.