Billy Bragg: Tooth and Nail

With his first studio album for five years, Billy Bragg is most certainly back…..only now we see the more relaxed-into-middle-age Bragg, an album about love, loss and hope, as opposed to fight, struggle and protest. As much as this album lacks a bit of the old fiery protest singer, what it does show is that Billy has lost none of his songwriting skills: touching and poignant throughout.

The album has a definite Americana influence, lots of slide guitar and a country feel in places. Bragg still manages to produce an album that feels perfectly balanced between the polemical and the out-and-out love songs.

The album is littered with the songs of struggle – only now it is the struggle with relationships, loneliness and loss. As much as Bragg is associated with protest songs, he does, in my opinion, sing about love even better. Take 'Your Name on my Tongue' a song about love and longing, or 'Handyman Blues' a wry look at modern relationships.

“I'm not any good at pottery, so let's lose a 't' and shift back the 'e', and I'll find a way to make my poetry build a roof over our heads”

Following on from the Mermaid Avenue album's of Guthrie lyrics put to music, Bragg has included one Woody cover: 'I Ain't got no Home' – an anthemic track about a migrant worker trying to survive the depression the 1930s.

He does still sing about changing the world, but in a calmer, less anxious way: 'Tomorrow's Going to be a Better Day', 'There Will be a Reckoning' and 'Do Unto Others' all have something to say about people and politicians alike, but with a softer tone and more philosophical approach – perhaps Bragg is mellowing in his old age!

“There will be a reckoning for the pedlars of hate who spread their poison all across this estate and a reckoning too for the politicians who left us to this fate”

Overall, 'Tooth and Nail' is a great album, it has a back-to-basics feel to it, it feels like we are welcoming an old friend back…



Review of 2012

I've read a few of these 'review' blogs over the last couple of days and after a year of various monthly challenges I thought a quick review of my own was required.

January started with my first attempt at Janathon. This was a quite a challenge to start the year, and I actually ran every day of the month and completed a total of 133 miles. It was great fun, really enjoyed reading the blogs of fellow janathoners. Good start to the years challenges.

After the excursions of Janathon, I decided on something rather gentler for February. The aim was to teach myself to play the ukulele. Didn't go amazingly well, although the uke is still hanging around and is often picked up every now and then.

March's challenge was again music related, only this time the challenge was to listen to new music and blog about it. This was an enjoyable month, I discovered some great bands and some have even made the list of bands to see in 2013.

Thanks to my sister and her birthday present to me, April was a month of model making: an Airfix model of The Cutty Sark. This was a very difficult challenge, the model was near impossible to make, very fiddly, and the paint didn't work either! Although a YouTube video of the final boat was a thing to behold.

And so we reached May and one of the most difficult challenges of the year: write a short story. Difficult for a number of reasons: time was an issue, lack of plan and a distinct lack of skill.

So after a couple of rather relaxing challenges, June brought us Juneathon and the attempt to run every day of the month. Didn't go quite as well as Janathon, I dipped out on running every day and completed 114 miles in all.

July's challenge was tasty: baking. I made ten different things other the course of the month, from cupcakes, brownies and tarts, through to shortbread, cookies and flapjacks. Lovely jubbly!

Of course, after making and eating cakes for a month, a physical challenge was needed for August. Swimming was decided. I could swim before but after a month of visiting various swimming pools in the area my swimming has really improved. I'm far from entering a triathlon, but maybe that's something for the future.

Learning to ride a unicycle. Seemed like a good idea at the time. September was the month to do it, which because of injury, turned into October's challenge as well. The unicycle was not mastered, even after two months, but I've not give up on that yet. Summer 2013 for the next attempt.

After the efforts of the previous two months, November brought the rather more gentle art of Origami, one per day for the duration of the month. My tutor group came on the journey with me and between us we produced 100s.

And so to the final month of the year, December, or should I say decembeer. The challenge was to drink a different beer every day of the month. This was a good challenge, and despite a dodgy illness over Christmas, it was completed. A reflection on 31 beers in the form of a blog post coming soon.

So the idea to dump the new year's resolution and instead complete 12 different monthly challenges was a complete success. I can now: run, swim, bake, unicycle, appreciate music, become more knowledgable about beer, have become an origami master, make models and write. All to varying different degrees. But as much as I've enjoyed the year…..enough is enough.