Billy Bragg,
Tooth & Nail
(Cooking Vinyl, 2013)

True to the spirit of his illustrious predecessors, Billy Bragg tackles the big and small issues on Tooth & Nail with carefully crafted words allied to memorable tunes.

The recession is touched on to great effect on the aptly titled "No One Knows Nothing Anymore," telling us what we already believe, but here encapsulated in 4 1/2 minutes. "Handyman Blues" is a beautiful song that again addresses what are painful truths for so many of us. How many of us can relate to the inability to putter successfully around the house, be it building a garden shed to fixing fuses. Unfortunately, we might not have the redeeming features noted here, such as writing songs or poems for the loved ones.

Bragg pays tribute to his hero Woody Guthrie on a wonderfully arranged and performed "I Ain't Got No Home." Although written decades ago and relating to Great Depression, it is sad to reflect that many of the emotions have re-emerged in this century.

Listening to the lyrics on these dozen tracks, we are reminded of the value of the "jobbing" artist who has emerged through a life and apprenticeship devoted not only to good music but storytelling and a love of fellow beings. Even on the more personal lost love song "Swallow My Pride," he hits a universal chord. "Chasing Rainbows" opens with a lovely old country sound that reminds us that no genre has a monopoly on our expression of feeling. It's another love song, but once more it is lost love.

It's still spring, but this is a hot contender for my album of 2013.

music review by
Nicky Rossiter

15 June 2013

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