Album – Mr Love and Justice – Billy Bragg

Posted by admin on April 23rd, 2008

  • Band / Artist : Billy BraggmySpace
  • Genre : Folk Rock / Punk
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : Amazon
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 9.5 out of 10

Billy Bragg is one of those artists who makes no secret of his political affiliations. Even on his website, he describes himself as a political activist. Growing up, I had many friends whose political leanings were influenced more by music, than the actual issues surrounding the various parties, this left me a little jaded and I have to admit, barring a few of Billy’s big hits, I kept a pretty wide berth.

Forward wind a good few years, when eMusic was a newbie service, I was fortunate enough to be on at the ground floor, when my $15 got me unlimited downloads. Ah those were the days, loading up on anything that took even my slightest whim. I downloaded Warren Zevon, Joe Strummer and lo and behold, there were several albums by Billy Bragg. What did I have to lose, so I downloaded Don’t Try This at Home and William Bloke. These were the first albums I’d ever listened to of Billy’s and imagine my surprise when I found they were actually quite good. It seems as the years have rolled by, Billy’s angst and cynicism had eased and what is now bubbling through, is great singer songwriting. That’s not to say Billy hasn’t done anything in the preceding years, New England is a particular favourite and I’m sure there are many other tracks that have gone under my radar, but I think his accessibility is now less of a barrier to entry.

So several more years have passed since those purchases and a few weeks ago, I found a copy of Billy’s new album, Mr Love and Justice in my mailbox. I was looking forward to giving this CD a spin, but was still a little apprehensive. I was really hoping this was going to be a further development of those more recent albums and I was not disappointed. From the first song “I Keep Faith” , that unmistakable voice is fused with some wonderful lyrics and musical accompaniment that blends effortlessly into a magical combination. Admittedly Billy’s voice is not the sweet sound of todays boy bands, but it’s also no Leonard Cohen. This is an album more of narrative and emotion, than some airhead, pretty boy vocalist. “I Almost Killed You” has just a wonderful opening, with clapping hands, acoustic guitar and harmonica, evoking a strong atmosphere and resulting in a great song.

“You Make Me Brave” is a more mellow and reflective song, which is just a joy to listen to, even though the air of melancholia is heavy, it’s an air that smells sweet and fresh. “Something Happened” continues the downbeat mood, but now instead of mellow acoustic guitar, we have distorted electric guitars and blues harmonica. “Mr Love and Justice”, the title track, may not be the killer track, that I usually expect from a title track, but it’s hard to really have anything to say against it.

“If You Ever Leave” has a slightly different feel to the rest of the tracks, but it certainly doesn’t feel out of place. “The Johnny Carcinogenic Show” certainly stands out not just for it’s distinct name, but also it’s theme against smoking. I suppose Billy Bragg, wouldn’t be Billy Bragg, if it he didn’t at least have one in your face message track, but when the tracks sound this good, who cares. Rounding off with “Farm Boy” this is probably my least favourite track on the album, but it’s still an interesting track, if a little lacklustre.

Conclusion : If like me, you’ve ever steered clear of Billy’s works, now may be the time to get yourself acquainted. As the years have rolled by, so have the in your face political statements, although I’m sure there’s some there, waiting to be uncovered, you can take from this album what you want. I thoroughly enjoyed this album from the first time I put it on and the opening song begun. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

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