I don't know much about Billy Bragg & Wilco, nor do I know much about either artist on their own. I do know that I love their Mermaid Avenue albums.
A while back I came across the song Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key. I first heard this live version of Matt Costa singing it. I loved the song so I went searching for it, hoping to find it in better quality. I found that the song was originally sung by Billy Bragg & Wilco. I wasn't as excited about this version, because I was already a fan of Matt Costa, but I did like that I could hear the song clearly, and I eventually ended up buying the song because I like it so much.
Later, when I was reading Bob Dylan's Chonicles: Volume One, I heard the story behind the two Mermaid Avenue albums, and how they were almost connected to my favorite folk singer of all time.
Back in the day, Woody Guthrie was THE folk singer - right up there with Joe Hill. He ended up in the hospital, and Bob Dylan ended up visiting him and becoming friends with him. At one point during one of Dylan's visits, Guthrie told him that he had a bunch of songs back at his house that he'd written but never sung, and he offered them to Dylan. Dylan went over to his house later, but never ended up getting the songs because Mrs. Guthrie was not at home - it was just little Arlo Guthrie and the baby sitter who didn't know where the songs were. Bob Dylan left and never went back for the songs.
Eventually, Woody Guthrie's daughter, Nora, put together the idea for Mermaid Avenue - two albums of songs written by her father and sung by a current artist in order to reach a new generation.
In my opinion, it worked. Here are a few songs.
Read more about the albums here.
Billy Bragg's website.