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Billy Bragg - Tooth and Nail (Cooking Vinyl)

29 March 2013

Billy Bragg‘s first album since 2008’s Mr. Love and Justice is a mesmerizing masterwork from one of the finest songwriters of the best three decades. Bragg, in stripped-down fashion (this was recorded over the course of only a few days by Joe Henry), waxes philosophical about his usual political targets, particularly on “No One Knows Nothing Anymore” and the atypically, for this album at least, ferocious denunciation “There Will Be a Reckoning. Along the same wavelength, don’t miss the sly, righteous “Do Unto Others”.

This album, though, focuses mainly on personal concerns. Calling himself “The Sherpa of Heartbreak” in the CD booklet, Bragg proves it by penning such pleading, yearning, devastating paeans to love lost such as “Swallow My Pride,” “Over You” and the album’s penultimate song “Your Name on My Tongue.”

These different sides of Bragg come together perfectly and as other reviews have suggested, Woody Guthrie is a guiding spirit throughout. Thus, it’s appropriate that Bragg covers “I Ain’t Got No Home” here. This bleakness is balanced by the somewhat-jokey, but still poignant (and very relatable) “Handyman Blues.”