My Revolutionary Mind - Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker, & Yim Yames

from the album New Multitudes (2012)

Imagine discovering a treasure chest.  What might you find inside? Gold?  Coins?  The King's Cutlery?  For Nora Guthrie, it was lyrics. Notebooks and pages filled with lyrics written by her father, the great folk singer, Woody Guthrie.

Knowing that great lyrics deserve great music, Nora Guthrie has sought out the best modern songwriters, with folk sensibilities, to bring her father's words to life.  The first projects were the Mermaid Avenue recordings by Wilco and Billy Bragg.  Named for the street on Coney Island, Brooklyn where Woody Guthrie wrote many of these songs, the recordings are modern masterpieces.  If you have not heard California Stars from Mermaid Avenue Volume 1, please stop reading this immediately and have a listen.

To commemorate Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday, Nora enlisted Son Volt frontman Jay Farrar to record a collection of songs with some fellow singer-songwriters, all using her father's lyrics.  The result is this album of diverse Americana gems.  I dig it.

For me, the recordings are a chance to celebrate the lyrics of Woody Guthrie.  When I was in grade school, we used to sing This Land Is Your Land and Roll On Columbia in Miss Tuck's music class.  I still remember every word and I realize how those music classes helped shape my love of songwriting.  My Revolutionary Mind is a song from this record whose lyrics connect with me.

A devout left-winger, Woody Guthrie writes of needing a like-minded woman to find peace in this world.  Here is a taste:

I need a progressive woman
I need an awful liberal woman
I need an open-hearted woman
To ease my revolutionary mind

The music is written by My Morning Jacket's Yim Yames, who also delivers the vocal.  When I close my eyes and listen to this slow-waltzing tune, I imagine John Lennon singing the vocal.  Or, maybe, Rick Danko.  Not many tunes are worthy of such singers.

Click Here to watch a live version from the Showbox, a cool Seattle venue where folks from Duke Ellington to The Ramones have played.

Click Here to watch Wilco - joined by Billy Bragg - performing California Stars live.