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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on April 25, 2012
Here's the deal: the majority of this material has been available for years now. If you're looking at this, then you probably already own Mermaid Avenue volumes one and two. You may even own the documentary Man in the Sand, but there is no way you own Mermaid Avenue Volume Three. I won't go into depth about Volumes one and two. They are awesome, but you already know that. The documentary is truly entertaining. It follows Billy Bragg as he tries to track down the real life of Woody Guthrie and starts to work to create music for the already penned Guthrie lyrics. The lyrics are amazing. It is easy to forget that Woody Guthrie was such an amazing lyricist and truly ahead of his time, but this set will drive that point home. I know what question you're asking: Why the heck should I buy a box set where I already own 2-3 of the disks? The answer is Mermaid Avenue Volume Three. This volume is filled with out takes from the Mermaid Avenue sessions. Some of the tracks like Bug-Eyed Jim, My Thirty Thousand, and When the Roses Bloom were maid available on an EP years ago. They are some of the stronger tracks on the album, but there are still 14 tracks you've never heard. All 17 tracks are worth your time though. Like me, you might resent having to pay thirty bucks to rebuy albums you already own. I get it. I really do wish they sold Volume Three as a stand alone album too, but that's the nature of the music biz. Sell you the same stuff over and over at inflated prices. We all resent it, but if you're a fan of the Mermaid Avenue stuff, you'll want this album. I do believe Amazon offers Volume Three as a stand alone purchase but for download only. I'm outdated. I don't mind downloading, but I truly would rather own a hard copy. Plus, I don't mind supporting Billy Bragg or Wilco a little more. The set itself it pretty nice. It does come with a hefty booklet with photos, lyrics, an essay by Woody's daughter Nora, and little hand written sayings/ notes from Woody himself sprinkled throughout. This was originally released on Record Store Day 2012, but I hope they keep it in print for much longer. Since it was released on RSD 2012, I wish they would have pressed it on vinyl as well, but that doesn't really belong in a review of the music. If you're looking at this, you're probably just trying to decide whether or not to drop thirty bucks for a set full of tracks you already own. If you're contemplating that though, you are probably a huge fan, which means in the end, yes, you'll want to drop the thirty bucks.
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on April 30, 2012
I won't waste time reviewing the quality of Vol. I and II or speak of the faults of Man in the Sand, the previously available documentary included here. Instead, I want to talk about the content of Vol. III for anyone who already has the first two volumes but is considering the hard copy of this set (NOTE: You don't have much to consider if you purchase it digitally because Vol. III is available separately.). This review is also for those who already have some of the content from Vol. III on the She Came Along to Me EP and bootlegs.

The content of Vol. III has never been officially available in one package. However, several of the songs were available on bootlegs for years, while others were released on the She Came Along to Me EP in 1998. "When the Roses Bloom Again" was released on the Chelsea Walls soundtrack in 2002. The sound quality of Vol. III is better than previous sources and consistent with Vol. I and II. Does the addition of Vol. III really complete the sessions? Pretty much. It would've been nice if Jeff Tweedy's solo/acoustic version of "At My Window Sad and Lonely" (from the She Came Along to Me EP) was included, as it is superior to the full band version on Vol. I, but you still can and should seek it out.

The package is a multifold digipack. It's not very sturdy for the amount of discs and thick booklet that it holds, but it should be fine for a while. Inside the booklet there is a new lengthy introduction from Nora Guthrie, lyric sheets, photos by Woody Guthrie and full lyrics with song credits. The old intros/notes from the previous releases of Vol. I and II are not here. For anyone picky about the vocal duties throughout the first two volumes, Vol. III's count is: Billy Bragg (10), Jeff Tweedy (5), Corey Harris (2).

For anyone curious about previous sources:

Bugeye Jim (EP)
When the Roses Bloom Again (bootleg, Chelsea Walls)
My Thirty Thousand (bootleg, EP)
Go Down to the Water (End credits of Man in the Sand)
Give Me a Nail (bootleg)
Ain'ta Gonna Grieve (bootleg)
I'm Out to Get ("Greenback Dollar" from the bootleg)

**EDIT** (6/8/2012): Recently, I rewatched Man in the Sand from the DVD included in this package. I noticed that the DVD menu is not the same as the one from the previous release, and the bonus demos from that release ("Birds and Ships" / "She Came Along to Me" / "I Guess I Planted" / "Eisler on the Go" / "The Unwelcome Guest") are not included on the DVD with this package. I'm not sure what the reasoning behind that is, but they are not essential unless you're a diehard fan of the sessions.
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on March 2, 2013
that the only way to get a Vol. 3 on CD is to rebuy volumes 1 and 2 in this set. These clearly are the leftovers. I can't think of any song that jumped out and made me think, "How did this not make Vol. 1?" But it's a likable collection of a music that I'm glad they made available.
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on April 30, 2012
already owning the 1st two volumes, i will not lay down 30 bucks for out takes. they should have just released a vol.3 and that would be that. this is nothing less than boosting profits for a label i used to respect. woody would be angered by this BS.
however, i will still give the set 5 stars for the music, but nonesuch should be ashamed.
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on June 24, 2014
Woody's daughter Nora sought out Billy Bragg & Wilco to write songs to Woody's unpublished lyrics. The result is really good, especially the Billy Bragg numbers. Wilco's modern sound provides an interesting contrast to Bragg's folksy approach.

Many here are criticizing Volume III as "leftovers" and "outtakes," which is fair since Volume III was released over a decade later than the previous volumes. However, Volume III is great listening, especially if you like blues.

Overall, the experiment is a critically acclaimed rousing success, fascinating on many levels. If Woody really has tons of unpublished lyrics as reported, there is no reason they can't keep making more of these volumes, it can become its own franchise.
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on May 14, 2016
I am going to address the same question everyone is asking: Should I get this if I already have volumes 1 and 2? If you don't have volumes 1 and 2, you should definitely get this. I didn't have the first two volumes either, considering I was only 5 when the second was released, but I did find both of them at The Exchange for about half the price of this, so I was also caught between having the first 2 for $13 or spending an extra $14 for all three. I would suggest listening to volume 3 before purchasing. All the songs are on youtube, so I listened to the album a few times to make sure I wanted the complete sessions. Songs such as Don't You Marry and I'm Out to Get are ones that I knew I needed to have. Chances are that if you love the first two volumes, there is no way you won't love the third. Plus the DVD is a nice bonus. So like I said, go to youtube and listen to the third volume if you're unsure, but I guarantee you'll end up loving it and buying the complete sessions.

On this album set itself, it really is nice. I was originally upset because I thought if I bought this, I wouldn't get the album art for each of the three volumes (which I really loved), but luckily they included each cover art over the slot of each disc as you can see in my picture. I also loved the famous picture of Woody Guthrie that is included over the slot for the DVD. The album set is just really cool to have, especially if you're a huge fan of the artists involved like I am.
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on June 8, 2015
The last CD is great. The DVD is interesting. Not crazy about the other cd's but I'm not dissatisfied with the purchase. It's a very interesting project that involves some very influential, important and talented musicians. I'm not a huge folk music fan although I do enjoy it. The album is an important one historically but I don't listen o it ever day, although I could listen to "California Stars" daily!
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on September 3, 2012
I love the Mermaid Ave sessions and it's wonderful to have the new songs released.

I've read that some are not able to find a way to download just the new songs.

You can download the new songs here...
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on November 29, 2013
What can one say? Woody Guthrie is still an icon to people in the know. And now to find some hidden gems among the volumes he left behind is certainly worth the price. Bragg and Wilco do an admirable job of bringing hitherto unknown words to music and keeping Woody alive for a new generation
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on April 1, 2013
First 2 CDs great, as others have expounded on. I don't listen to the 3rd. I definitely enjoy the DVD and the little booklet.
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