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Billy Bragg & Wilco - Man in the Sand (The Making of "Mermaid Avenue")
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The life and music of legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie (writer of "This Land Is Your Land" and author of Bound for Glory) has influenced every generation that followed him. Thirty years after his death, his daughter Nora Guthrie sought out Billy Bragg to write songs and record Woody's unpublished lyrics. Shot over a period of two years, Man in the Sand follows Billy on a journey that takes him to Okemah, Oklahoma, Woody's birthplace, to Pampa, Texas, where Woody started playing music professionally and New York City where Woody wrote many of his lyrics. Man in the Sand takes you to Billys home in London where Mermaid Avenue begins to take shape. He meets up with Wilco in their hometown of Chicago, travels to record two tracks with Natalie Merchant in Boston and finally on to a Dublin studio where Mermaid Avenue comes together. Man in the Sand reveals the often emotional collaborative process between Billy, Jeff Tweedy and the members of Wilco. Narrated by Nora Guthrie, this 90-minute feature film offers insight into a unique recording project that breathes life into Woody Guthrie's 50-year-old words.
- Five bonus songs (audio only): Billy Bragg demos for Mermaid Avenue: "Birds and Ships," "She Came Along to Us," "I Guess I Planted," "Eisler on the Go," "The Unwelcome Guest"
- Direct song access
- Artist discographies
Top Customer Reviews
Man In The Sand has a few rough spots. As Bragg does his "Driveabout" in OK and TX, it's both funny and tragic watching him behave like he's on safari in the 1890s, rather than traveling to a not-so-foreign-country in the 1990s. While trying to pay respect to Guthrie, Bragg's cultural/class snobbery is both intact and palpable (along with the irony). The filmmakers get a pat on the back for showing that bit.
The filmmakers do get it wrong in places. I could have done without Bragg's home life, and instead used the time for delving into other areas. First, show more of the music making process. Second, give us more of an explanation of how and why Wilco and Natalie Merchant were brought into the project. Third, if you are going to introduce the idea of creative strife at all, lay it all out. Don't dance around it, then suggest the reason you're going low key is that you don't want to overshadow the music. While we don't know the original intent of the documentary, I've come to expect nothing but top drawer from the BBC. "Man In The Sand" falls short.
But, we were talking about a road movie. A road movie needs the participants to be in love with something elusive, and this movie has got it to spare. It is so obvious that Bragg, Wilco, and Merchant are totally in love with making the music.Read more ›
Fans of Wilco are most likely to be disappointed with `Man in the Sand'. As already mentioned, it neglects even to mention how they came into the project, and Bragg gets much more screen time, even though the musical collaboration between them seems to have been fairly evenly split. Still, what we do see of them here shines, both in their studio work and their witty banter with Bragg in discussing the project. Bragg is covered more extensively, and he has an awkward charm that works well in the film, as the personal imperfections that it exposes give a great air of honesty and authenticy.
My primary interest in `Man in the Sand' was neither Billy Bragg nor Wilco, but rather Woody Guthrie and his music. Woody's ghost is the real star here.Read more ›
I enjoyed much of this documentary in spite of the limited talents of the filmmakers, as Mr. Bragg, Mr. Guthrie, and Wilco were all compelling enough to hold my attention.
But it is rather ignorant of the filmmakers to assume that those wishing to see such a document would have little to no interest in Wilco, who were more than minor participants in the project. Instead, they attempt to present typical British tabloid journalism, trying to recreate "Let It Be" by fomenting a minor dispute between the songwriters.
The best parts of this, for me, were the tidbits of Jeff Tweedy singing Guthrie's words, but they were scarce. The filmmakers never even said anything about how Wilco were brought into the project to begin with.
to end with some good observations: the performances here are tremendous and well worth keeping in your library if you are a fan of wilco or billy. again: jeff tweedy is breathtaking.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've been a Billy Bragg fan since 1987 which was the first time that I heard "Back to Basics." I also like Wilco quite a bit and enjoyed the interplay of these musicians on the... Read morePublished on February 10, 2005 by Bernard Chapin
I am a long time fan of the band Uncle Tupelo which was fronted by Jeffy Tweedy (Wilco) and Jay Farrar (Son Volt, now doing ... solo material). Read morePublished on August 27, 2003
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