“I’m so tightly wound in tension, feel just like a guitar string. Waiting to reveal emotions, touch me and you’ll hear me sing…”
Singer song writer Billy Bragg has been crafting albums for well over 30 years. Throughout that time he has been the “working man’s” voice carrying the torch, once held by Woody Guthrie, then Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. His poetry has never brought him the fame and fortune the latter is known for, but his songs are every bit as germane and even more socially biting than those of his predecessors.
Bragg emerged from the volatile British Punk movement of the late 70’s writing and preforming protest songs with the punk group RIFF RAFF. After a short stint in the British Army, he returned to the music scene in the 80’s as a solo artist, opening for other bands, and playing where ever he could. Much like Woody Gutherie did in America during the great depression, Bragg found an audience for his music at leftist political rallies, strikes, and benefits across England. He developed a loyal following and released relevant social commentary, for the time, with albums like Talking with the Taxman About Poetry and Don’t try this at home. In the 90’s he started the Utility Record Label to give a voice to other less commercial new artists. In the late 90’s he teamed up with American alternative band Wilco to record a two volume collection of unpublished songs by Guthrie titled Mermaid Avenue.
His latest release, Tooth and Nail, finds Bragg slightly tempered, as he steps back and reflects internally on life and family. Songs like Do Unto Others, Swallow My Pride and Handyman Blues are beautifully crafted pieces that furnish comfort to the mind and soul. Bragg doesn’t completely buck tradition though. He is still aware of what’s going on around him, No One Knows Nothing Anymore and There will Be a Reckoning, but here he is also getting his own house in order, taking time, hanging curtains, mending fences, and finding solitude in sooth.
“There will be a reckoning. For the pedlars of hate. Who spread their poison all across this estate And a reckoning too, for the politicians who, left us to this fate. There will be a reckoning.”
Tooth and Nail is minimalistic, classic “William” at his best. Good stuff for all the hard working blokes out there.
Take it on the run, and Enjoy!