Billy Bragg and Wilco argued over the mixing and sequencing of the original `Mermaid Avenue' album and consequently Wilco would not tour it and Bragg had to assemble `The Blokes' with whom he still tours. This decision possibly felt quite foolish when the album got full marks in most of the reviews it received, was nominated for a Grammy and was a considerable hit in both England and most importantly in Woody Guthrie's native America.
Consequently these tracks, recorded at the same sessions, were dusted down and with a Wilco only session to record `Someday Some Morning Sometime', `Remember the Mountain Bed' and `Secret of the Sea'. The tracks recorded especially for the recording are the weakest and the unused Billy Bragg compositions are the greatest collected here, some of them, most noticeably `Stetson Kennedy', `All You Fascists', `Aginst th' Law', `Joe Dimaggio Done it Again' and `Hot Rod Hotel' are better than any of the songs on the first volume. Wilco's complaint of Bragg seems justifiable, Jeff Tweedy's criteria was `pick the songs that don't suck' and although nothing sucked on `Mermaid Avenue' I can't help but think Bragg's song selection was off kilter.
His choice of kiddie's song `Hoodoo Voodoo' on volume 1 cannot compare with `My Flying Saucer' collected here and why the Natalie Merchant delivered `Birds and Ships' was picked over `I Was Born' beggars belief.
So traditionally volume 2 records are the scrapings from the bottom of the session barrels but not so this one. A real classic, probably less consistent than the first album, but when it's good it's very good, and when it's bad it's still pretty good.