Review: Tooth and Nail - Billy Bragg

by Andy Snipper

The introspective and melancholic Billy Bragg that we find on this album feels very much at odds with the rabble rousing enemy of the state that he made his name as but as an album it is quite beautiful and a brilliant exposition of modern country Blues. There is no Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards or A New England but instead we get Tomorrow's Going To Be A Better Day and No-one Knows Anything Any More.

Maybe it is his age or maybe he is seeing the same problems coming around yet again but he sounds almost resigned on songs like January Song and Swallow My Pride but his version of Woody Guthrie’s I Ain’t Got No Home tears at your soul although I’m not sure whether a depression era song about homeless and migrant labor is quite suited to today's welfare society.

Handyman Blues is quite the best love song I have heard in years – singing to his love that he isn’t a handyman, just a songwriter and poet; it’s difficult to imagine anyone not falling for a line like “I’m a lover not a decorator”.

The pace of the songs is almost jaunty, just about sauntering, but his vocal style has added a country element to it alongside his Dagenham drawl and it works with the somber pace of the music, making a unique sound.

Goodbye, Goodbye is pure melancholia – a song of goodbye that wrenches at the heart of anyone who has lost a dear one and if it gets released as a single could just be the biggest song Bragg has ever written.

12 songs on the album and the lyrics of all of them are worth listening to but for once the music rounds the words off leaving an album you can just enjoy as well as one to be understood.

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