Friday, November 28, 2014

Billy Bragg - Brewing Up with Billy Bragg

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Brewing Up with Billy Bragg, the second studio album from Billy Bragg. This one went to number 16 on the UK charts.

Side one starts with “It Says Here”, a direct shot at the British tabloid newspapers. The guitar-only accompaniment is raw and unpolished, like you would hear by a street performer in a train-station playing for spare change. I like the cleanness of the sound.

“Love Gets Dangerous” takes an open and bare-it-all look at a relationship.

“The Myth of Trust” continues the personal relationship examination as one of the primary foundations of it is brought into question.

“From a Vauhall Velox” is an ode to messing around with a girl in the backseat of a medium-sized six-cylinder sedan that was made from 1948 to 1965. The whole rhythm of this one has a classic rock ‘n roll sound to it.

“The Saturday Boy” is a reflection upon the days of a young unrequited love.

Bragg gives an anti-war commentary with the next track “Island of No Return”.

Side two opens with “St. Swithin’s Day”, a song about a British tradition centered around July 15th.. As legend says, whatever the weather is on that day will show how things will continue for the next forty days.

“Like Soldiers Do” is next.

“This Guitar Says Sorry” features a guitar playing style very much that of classic Bo Diddley.

The next track is called “Strange Things Happen”. The song is full of adolescent angst.

The album closes with “A Lover Sings”. I like the addition of the organ on this one; it gives it a reverent vibe to it.

A later CD release expanded the album to two disks, adding eleven more tracks including some alternate versions of some of the original vinyl ones.

One listen to Brewing Up with Billy Bragg gives you the simple formula here of a man and his guitar. Even though many songs sound very familiar musically, it is his lyrics that really get you thinking. Back in 1984, this record would have been too folk-like and political for my tastes. As I am many decades older, I can certainly appreciate more what messages Bragg was trying to get across.

For more from Billy Bragg, click here.

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