TOOTH & NAIL
Billy Bragg has been out of my thoughts for a while now. I missed his ‘Ain’t Nobody That Can Sing Like Me’ tour back in October last year. The tours main focus was to celebrate the legacy of Woody Guthrie. A major influence on Bragg, a shared road of folk and protest.
Americana can often seem to be the last refuge of the scoundrel. Artists with roots in rockier realms with nothing left suddenly remember how much they love the slide guitar. But this is not the case with Braggs latest. This seems so natural for him, a heartfelt affinity with this ilk. On Tooth & Nail Billy is looking better than he ever has, a silver fox maturity, even his voice has changed in accent and octaves, his emotion and delivery sturdy. A downbeat weary passion strolls through every song. The words and arrangements keeping the listener focused and moved. Tales of romance, honesty and defeat.
January Song opens with a beautiful heart, a sadness “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” moving into dabs of questioning “politicians selling freedom, bumper sticker 50 cents, ask him what he wants to be free from, answer don’t make any sense.”
No One Knows Nothing Anymore gives us our first taste of slide, lyrics a modern setting for ancient questions of life are gorgeously realised. It’s psychedelic ending swirls gently with neon tumbleweeds. Handyman Blues gets a laugh, jug band steps and strings gives us a witty look at the struggle and justification of the artist trying to make a living with his gift of song.
Hearing Bragg tackle the man of the hour, Woody Guthrie’s I Ain’t Got No Home, is perfect. A reverence, simple acoustic with a shiver of cymbal rumbles in the dust and dirt. The songs continue to mosey on. Swallow My Pride choked tears of love and forgiveness, Do Unto Others and Over You grow into a more swinging lament. Goodbye Goodbye should make this years greatest funeral songs top ten list – but you can’t dismiss too offhand as it soars above in a sorrowful contentedness. Bragg moves into Boss territory with There Will Be A Reckoning three more tracks finish this 12 track homage. Tomorrow’s Going To Be A Better Day ends this songbook of soul and journey perfectly. Bragg has given us porch songs to stare into sky and horizons, lay back into its filtered sunlight and be still. I’m glad I found this piece of Billy Bragg’s life story to add to my collection.
AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES 2014