Billy Bragg – Mr. Love and Justice

September 22nd, 2008
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The People’s Poet

A modern Woody Guthrie with an English twist, Billy Bragg inhabits a niche still unknown to many American music fans. Bragg’s special brand of socially conscious folk intersects with his punk roots again on his twelfth studio album Mr. Love and Justice. The title is taken from author Colin MacInnes’ novel of the same name about London youth, immigrant and outsider culture. The double disc is two versions of the same album, one acoustic and the other with accompaniment from his backup band, the Blokes. The latter recorded disc is superior. Bragg live in concert is the best way to hear him play acoustic. A fantastic storyteller by nature, he is able pull an audience in with a trance of intimacy, which is missing from the solo recorded version. On the latter album, the band version lifts him from sounding monotone and sad.Considering his reputation as a protest singer, the album is very laid back in its approach to subject matters. Rather than being preachy, Bragg has a humane, developed commentary on both the state of the world and relationships. “I Keep the Faith” speaks of holding on to moral conviction that is against the grain. With a Celtic feel, “I Almost Killed You” sounds like the cast of “Riverdance” lent their heel tapping as percussion to the droll assertion, “I almost killed you/with my love.” “M for Me” contains a delightful brass solo that gives it a jazz-like languidness. Bragg remains the gadfly for Leftist causes with “O Freedom,” which bemoans the loss of civil liberties and “Johnny Carcinogenic Show,” in which he deplores the tobacco industry.

A troubadour of wisdom and a watchman for injustice, Billy Bragg has returned with a warm, textured record of twelve songs that speak to the turmoil of our time and a life well-lived and considered.

By M. Burns Posted in Reviews