Stetson Kennedy, Woody Guthrie, Billy Bragg and Wilco
Stetson Kennedy may be best known for his books and campaigning, but there was a time when he could have been a Senator. In 1950 Kennedy put his name forward as a write-in candidate for the US Senate. With no campaign finances to speak of, the only weapon he had in his arsenal was a song written for him by Woody Guthrie.
That song (simply called Stetson Kennedy) is one of those sung by Billy Bragg and Wilco (or Jeff Tweedie and Jay Bennett of that band) on their classic collection of Woody Guthrie Songs, Mermaid Avenue Vol 2. The records had their genesis in a box of lyrics written by Woody Guthrie but for which he never composed music that was found in a box in the attic of the family home on Mermaid Avenue in the 1990s. The first volume came out in 1998 and was nominated for a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album, the second album hit the market in 2000.
In case you were thinking that was that and now Wilco and Bragg would go back to strumming their own songs, hanging around playing partypoker and generally leaving the Woody Guthrie legacy behind, then there's a nice surprise. April 21, 2012, sees the release of Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions. This includes volumes 1, 2, and 3, which includes unreleased recordings made during the sessions. Also included is also a 1999 documentary about the sessions Man in the Sand, made by Kim Hopkins, plus there is the obligatory booklet full of lyrics, liner notes by Nora Guthrie, photographs and more.
Although Wilco are well-known in the US, Billy Bragg is less well known. However he is the perfect person to work on Guthrie's songs. He has been involved in left wing politics since he first started out as a musician in his early Twenties.