Billy Bragg - Tooth & Nail

This time it’s personal…

He’s always been a bit of a softy, has our
Bill. The wider populace’s default view
of Bragg is that of a leftish firebrand
with a noisy guitar and a neat line in
soundbites but, throughout his
30-year career, he’s frequently
shown his tender side, and
Tooth & Nail is probably the
most accurate and all-encompassing
illustration of
the great man’s worth.

This is a very personal
album, recorded in five
quick days almost a year
ago, but held back until
other dates in his diary –
not least a series of events
to mark the 100th
anniversary of the birth of
his hero Woody Guthrie – had
been given full attention.
Sonically, it shares a palette with
Mermaid Avenue, the two
volumes of Guthrie lyrics he and
Wilco added melodies to in the
mid-90s, but very much with
Bragg’s own charm and personality
to the fore.

Love, friends and family dominate
proceedings, from the mourning
opener January Song to the comical DIY
disasters of Handyman Blues (“I’m a writer,
not a decorator”), and the cap-in-hand
humble apology of Swallow My Pride to the
hamstrung yearning of Your Name On My
Tongue. There’s still room for insightful
protest (No One Knows Nothing Anymore,
There Will Be A Reckoning), but that’s just
one component of a man whose drive,
intelligence and optimism shines like
a beacon, perfectly encapsulated in the
reassuring closer Tomorrow’s Going To Be
A Better Day.  

4 stars 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars

Cooking Vinyl | COOKCD 580 (CD+DVD / LP)

Reviewed by Terry Staunton
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