Now that we’re finding out the true meaning of the Chinese curse ‘May you live in interesting times’, Billy Bragg, who has just published his acclaimed book, Roots, Radicals & Rockers, returns to his full-time career as protest singer and has now released a new single, The Sleep Of Reason, today via Cooking Vinyl. The single is an impassioned polemical anthem set to a stark buzzsaw melody that is written in response to the events of 2016, it is the first of several songs Billy Bragg plans to release over the course of the coming months.
Fresh from touring the world with Joe Henry and galvanised by recent political events, not least the worrying rise of popularism, Billy Bragg is dealing with it in the best way he knows how, by strapping on his electric guitar and heading out on tour across the UK and Europe in November, under the title ‘Bridges Not Walls’.
Billy Bragg, in his one-man Clash mode, will perform songs from his long career, along with some pertinent covers by his heroes and mentors and some freshly minted songs about the state of the world.
The Bridges Not Walls Tour Dates can be viewed below Read More…
UK folk favourite Billy Bragg and American artist Joe Henry have announced that they will be releasing a new collaborative album. The disc is titled Shine A Light – Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad and is set to drop on Cooking Vinyl September 23, 2016. The project is a collection of railway-themed classic songs recorded in the course of a 65 hour journey across the US on the Texas Eagle railroad service. Bragg comments:
“Railroad songs provided the bedrock of American popular music, from Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman, to Lead Belly, whose repertoire provided several of the songs for this project. In this country, Lonnie Donegan’s 1956 hit ‘Rock Island Line’ sparked the skiffle craze, inspiring a generation of British teens to pick up guitars and form the groups that invaded American in the 60s, from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin.
Growing up in the UK, I’d always been aware of this tradition but when I travelled to the US, I was surprised to find how few people look to the railroad as a means of transport. With this project, we wanted to explore the transformative power that the coming of the railroad had on the lives of ordinary people by taking these songs back to the places that inspired their creation. Travelling on the train and recording the songs as we went allowed us to both visit places that were important 125 years ago when the lines were laid, but to also explore the viability of the railroad as a means of transport in the 21st century.”
Joe’s comments can be found below along with tour dates.
UK folk punk pioneer Billy Bragg will be re-releasing a 30th anniversary edition of his debut album, Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy.
The special edition will be re-mastered and include a solo live performance of the album which was recorded at a London Union Chapel show in June of this year. It will be available from Oct 29th on 180g vinyl, CD and digitally. Bragg and Cooking Vinyl have also launched ‘Get Behind Billy Bragg‘, an online commentary series from the man himself about his career which will be released in the lead up to the album release.
You can pre-order the special edition of Life’s A Riot With Spy Vs Spy here.
Tooth & NailCooking Vinyl
By Brittany Strummer
Billy Bragg is like a fine wine, enriching his composition and complexity with each passing year. A man who could comfortably call it quits on the laurels of a career that has already influenced so many, the British folk veteran continues to strap on his guitar and spread his insight. His latest offering, Tooth & Nail comes five years after the ambitious Mr. Love & Justice, and sees Bragg return to his more intimate roots.
Those expecting a product meeting the grandeur of Mr. Love & Justice might come across initially disappointed, but should find early forgiveness upon hearing the time and care that Bragg irrefutably wields. Working with a minimalist’s mindset, Bragg deploys his instruments sparingly, achieving a more meaningful connection when calling on his backing band or piano keys. Aided by a single tambourine and gently strummed guitar, opener “January Song” exemplifies the strength of Bragg’s words. “I’m so tightly wound in tension, I feel just like a guitar string, waiting to reveal emotions, touch me and you’ll hear me sing” croons Bragg poetically, his slow instrumental growth careful to not overshadow his eloquence. A track later on “No One Knows Anything Anymore” he sneaks in a catchy tune with the aid of more distinct guitar and those unmistakably emotive piano strokes. Contemplating the answers to the universe, Bragg explores the Large Hadron Collider’s search for the “God” particle and imagines a world in which “no one knows nothing anymore.”
Bragg’s dry humour surfaces throughout the disc, most overt in the witty “Handyman Blues.” Accepting his ineptitude with a hammer and grace with a guitar, this tangy piece plays like an apology for not being handy around the house, looking to his identity as a songwriter and slyly suggesting that he can “find a way to make my poetry to make a roof over our head.”
A mid-album series of ballads run at one of Bragg’s most dawdling tempos, and taken together might seem a tad underwhelming. A few like “I Ain’t Got No Home” burn slow, filling the gaps between more lively songs like “Do Unto Others,” but others like “Swallow My Pride” serve their purpose well. Tooth & Nail holds some of Bragg’s most personal cuts, and to that end it’s hard to accuse even the weaker songs of being filler. More likely, Bragg has chosen his songs to compliment each other. So when the album’s sole stadium rock song and toe tapping standout “There Will Be A Reckoning” emerges from the midnight oil, all is forgiven and Bragg’s roadmap couldn’t be more the work of a master.
A few years back, countryman and popular folk-rock soloist Frank Turner commented in an interview about having Billy Bragg as an opener for a festival that Turner was headlining. While the interviewer implied that Turner had surpassed Bragg, Turner’s humble response praised Bragg as a living legend, and that he was honoured that Bragg would do such a personal favour. Tooth & Nail showcases every reason for Turner’s gratitude. Fast approaching sixty, Billy Bragg remains a goal for songwriters following in his footsteps, remaining much more than a legacy act.
Live (April 5th, 2013)Vogue Theatre - Vancouver, BC
By Bobby Gorman
“I’ve had a curry, I’ve had a shower, I’ve had a shit. It’s Friday night, let’s do this” were the words Billy Bragg chose to open his set with last Friday night at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver, instantly setting the mood for the evening as the packed and varied crowd laughed and cheered along with the British troubadour.
Unlike for his last Canadian tour, Bragg was no longer alone up on the stage but backed by a talented group of musicians, allowing him to properly round out of his songs and use the Vogue’s sound system to full advantage. This helped propel the sets’ early songs forward, like the opening Ideology from his 1986 album Talking With The Taxman About Poetry. The addition of bass, drums, piano and additional guitar gave the song a stronger punch, a fuller sound that resonated through the seats of the theatre.
Furthermore, it worked nicely for Bragg’s newer songs, which were the focus of the evening’s performance. Touring in support of his recent album, Tooth & Nail, the setlist consisted predominantly of folksy tracks from the album that requires the pedal steel guitar and stand-up bass to get the full effect.
No matter how good songs like Handyman Blues, No One Knows Nothing Anymore, Swallow My Pride, There Will Be A Reckoning and Goodbye, Goodbye may have sounded though, the moment Bragg dropped the acoustic and picked up an electric onstage by himself, a collective shiver went down the spines of everyone in attendance.
There’s something natural and endearing about seeing Bragg there by himself and the four song portion of the set that saw him isolated on the stage remained the highlight of the evening. Playing through The Space Race Is Over, The Milkman Of Human Kindness, To Have and to Have Not and Levi Stubbs’ Tears served as a reminder of how ever lasting Bragg’s music can be and that sometimes the bare-bones delivery can be even more moving than a full blown orchestra.
Scattered throughout the set, Bragg also paid homage to his idol Woody Guthrie with covers of Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key, All Your Fascists Are Bound To Lose (dedicated to Sunderland’s manger Paolo Di Canio), I Ain’t Got No Home and My Flying Saucer. Each cover came with a story behind it, serving as a musical history lesson for everyone in attendance. More than simply regurgitation history, Bragg imbued the stories with a sense of nostalgia, immediacy and reference, showcasing why the songs have stood the test of time and the personal connections he has with them all.
Plus, any story where an musical legend talks of trying to impress his mom, pooping under his aunt’s table, shaking the queen’s hand and writing a gospel song simply to piss off any detractor is a good story in my book.
While the absence of New England and There Is Power In A Union left a hole in my heart, the simplicity and authenticity of Billy Bragg’s performance was undeniable. He was funny and touching, endearing and sincere, critical and fair – a down to earth folksman there to sing songs and share stories.
Louise Distras, the UK’s latest punk rock queen may invite comparisons to female punk contemporaries like Brode Dalle and Courtney Love, but in reality her music shares more with folk singer Billy Bragg and folk punk Frank Turner. Her debut album Dreams From The Factory Floor is due out on 30th September via Street Revolution Records.
She is the current darling of the UK music press, being described as ‘the 21st Century Joe Strummer who personifies punk rock spirit, free-thinking and the renegade soul’. High praise indeed, and it remains to be seen whether she will live up to the hype.
You can check out her video for The Hand You Hold here. Tour dates with the Street Dogs are below.
Legendary UK singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has premiered a brand new music video. The video features the song “Handyman Blues” from his recent full length, Tooth & Nail, released back in March through Dine Alone Records.
Watch the video below.
Legendary UK singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has unveiled details for Tooth & Nail, his first studio album in five years and tength overall. The album will be available on March 19th through Dine Alone Records.
The album, which was recorded in merely five days, was produced by Grammy award-winning songwriter and producer Joe Henry and is considered to be the follow-up he never made to Mermaid Avenue, the famed collaboration he did with Wilco in 1998.
You can get a free download of the single Handyman Blues here.
In support of the album, Billy Bragg is set to embark on a North American tour starting at SXSW, the dates are below.
Mr. Love and JusticeAnti- Records
By Bobby Gorman
Billy Bragg is a prolific writer and musician. Throughout the past two and a half decades, the english born wordsmith has released a dozen albums, he’s been cited as a major influence from many political punk bands and has worked with bands such as Wilco and Less Than Jake. In fact, one of my favourite Lifetime songs is a cover of Bragg‘s New England. He’s a respected and much love musician which makes me feel so ashamed to say that Mr. Love and Justice – his twelfth album – is actually the first record I’ve heard by the man all the way through.
With that in mind, know that I am unable to compare Mr. Love and Justice to anything he has released prior and after reading a few other reviews it seems that this record actually pales in comparison to his older work. From the few songs I know of his earlier material I can understand why some would say that but as it is, Mr. Love and Justice is still well worth the listen.
A slightly poppier version of Greg Graffin‘s Cold as Clay, Mr. Love and Justice is a folk album from front to back. The best moments of the album are when Bragg‘s slightly accented (although not nearly as accented as one would have thought) vocals are sang softly over the strum of an acoustic guitar like on You Make Me Brave. Of course, he often expands on that with his help from his backing band, The Blokes. This means that most of the songs have a fuller sound than what would be accomplished with just Bragg and his guitar and for the most part it works. Sing Their Souls Back Home soars with the help from May Fitzpatrick on backing vocals and the use of a hammond B3. That combination also works wonders on The Johnny Carcinogenic Show. Other songs see the added help of piano, lap steel, harmonica and more. It makes for a diverse sound seeped in an honest, laid back vibe.
Probably the biggest disappointed I had with the album is the lyrical content. Considering Bragg is known as a political activist that became famous for writing riveting protests songs, Mr. Love and Justiceseems relatively calm. Many of the songs are simple love songs, like Me for Me, Something Happened, If You Ever Leave and I Almost Killed You. While they are all well and good in their own rights, they are missing that venomous angst. And while The Beach is Free may be one of the more memorable selections on the album, its a song about the under usage of beaches and it just seems like a weird topic from anyone.
When he does tackle the politics though, Bragg shines. Sing Their Souls Back Home is a passionate anti-war song. O Freedom tackles the topic of extraordinary rendition from the point of view of someone who was accused of terrorism and The Johnny Carcinogenic Show is a tongue in cheek attack on today’s television standards. These songs tend to not only be the strongest lyrically but also musically as they seem to have a stronger back bone compared to the slightly softer amorous tracks.
Looking at the record as a whole, Mr. Love and Justice is probably not Bragg‘s strongest effort and I’m slightly disappointed that there isn’t that Clash like angst that I’ve heard so much about. Nevertheless, the record has enough shining moments proving that Bragg still knows his way around the guitar that makes the album well worth a listen if you’re a fan of folk.
30 pieces of hate mail have been delivered to residents of Billy Bragg’s neighborhood of Burton Bradstock, in Dorset. The letters demand that they kick out the activist songwriter because of his socialist principles. Bragg believes the letter to be from a British National Party supporter that disagrees with his “celebrity” lifestyle (the singer lives in a £1.5 million house with sea views) because of his left wing views; going so far as to calling him anti-british.
While residents of Bragg’s neighborhood don’t all agree with his views they do appreciate Bragg as a responsible citizen of the community.
The rest of the article can be read here.