Over his thirty year career, Billy Bragg has been a reliable and compelling singer and writer of songs that tend to beat directly from his Woody Guthrie-styled political activist heart. But for his new album Tooth and Nail (March 19, Cooking Vinyl), Bragg explores more personal topics -- he does refer to himself as "the sherpa of love", after all -- with exemplary support from producer Joe Henry and a stellar group of studio musicians who wrapped the dozen songs in less than five days in Henry's basement studio. "Technically I'm not a great singer, I'm not much of a player," Bragg tells Rolling Stone, "but they were really engaged with what I was trying to do and what I was trying to say." With his weathered, often weary voice, Bragg sings his plaintive, rough-around-the-edges love songs with a mix of desire and regret, transforming simple, restrained melodies like "Goodbye, Goodbye" (stream after the jump) and "Swallow My Pride" into something moving and powerful.
Photo: Andrew Kendall
Photo: Anthony Griffin