Billy Bragg – Tooth & Nail

Billy Bragg returns with his 13th album and it some ways it’s a departure from his usual style but fans will instantly see the similarities to the work he did with Wilco on the ‘Mermaid Avenue’ records. ‘Tooth & Nail’ is perhaps the album that Bragg has always wanted to make, gone are the very British tales of kitchen sink dramas replaced by Americana stories of love, desolation and the downtrodden. A keen exponent and lover of all things Woody Guthrie, a version of ‘I Ain’t Got No Home’ is included here, Bragg wears his influences with pride and with his impressive backing band and Grammy award winning producer Joe Henry at the helm he has crafted an album in the very tradition of old time country/folk/blues. Stripped back and earthy Bragg has added an American tinge to his London drawl something which may irk some but in context of the album kind of fits. Slide guitar is present in most of the twelve tracks as is shuffled drums and a honky tonk pace. ‘There Will Be A Reckoning’ may lack the kick that a younger Bragg would have given it but it proves that even after all this time he is prepared to get political and has not forgotten his ethics. lyrically we get the humble love song ‘Handyman Blues’ but Bragg is not afraid to also tackle larger issues with references to the Higgs Boson in ‘No One Knows Nothing Anymore’ and biblical origins of right and wrong in ‘Do Unto Others’ while ‘Your Name On My Tongue’ recalls ‘Must I Paint You a Picture’ from ‘Workers Playtime’. ‘Tooth & Nail’ is Bragg doing what he does best, it’s a mature record and a natural progression, ‘Back to Basics’ this is not and nor should it be. The major negative point of most reviews seems to be the relocation of his style stateside but to that I say Bragg is a national treasure and we should all allow him the indulgence of crafting an album that is quintessentially Bragg without necessarily being quintessentially British, which is what he has done.

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