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Billy Bragg & Wilco

Finding inspiration in the righteous anger of punk rock and the socially conscious folk tradition of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg was the leading figure of the anti-folk movement of the '80s. For most of the decade, Bragg bashed out songs alone on his electric guitar, singing about politics and love. While his lyrics were bitingly intelligent and clever, they were also warm and humane, filled with detail and wit. Even though his lyrics were carefully considered, Bragg never neglected to write melodies for songs that were strong and memorable. Throughout the '80s, he managed to chart consistently in Britain, yet he only gathered a cult following in America, which could be due to the fact that he sang about distinctly British subject matter, both politically and socially.

Bragg began performing in the late '70s with the punk group Riff Raff, which lasted only a matter of months. He then joined the British Army, yet he quickly bought himself out of his sojourn with £175. After leaving the Army, he began working at a record store; while he was working, he was writing songs that were firmly in the folk and punk protest tradition. Bragg began a British tour, playing whenever he had the chance to perform. Frequently he would open for bands with only a moment's notice; soon, he had built a sizable following, as evidenced by his first EP, Life's a Riot with Spy vs. Spy (1983), hitting number 30 on the U.K. independent charts. Brewing Up with Billy Bragg (1984), his first full-length album, climbed to number 16 in the charts.

During 1984, Bragg became a minor celebrity in Britain, as he appeared at leftist political rallies, strikes, and benefits across the country; he also helped form the "Red Wedge," a socialist musicians' collective that also featured Paul Weller. In 1985, Kirsty MacColl took one of his songs, "New England," to number seven on the British singles chart. Featuring some subtle instrumental additions of piano and horns, 1986's Talking with the Taxman About Poetry reached the U.K. Top Ten.

Bragg's version of the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home," taken from the Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father tribute album, became his only number one single in 1988 -- as the double A-side with Wet Wet Wet's "With a Little Help from My Friends." That year, he also released the EP Help Save the Youth of America and the full-length Workers Playtime, which was produced by Joe Boyd (Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, R.E.M.). Boyd helped expand Bragg's sound, as the singer recorded with a full band for the first time. The following year, Bragg restarted the Utility record label as a way of featuring non-commercial new artists. The Internationale, released in 1990, was a collection of left-wing anthems, including a handful of Bragg originals. On 1991's Don't Try This at Home, he again worked with a full band, recording his most pop-oriented and accessible set of songs; the album featured the hit single, "Sexuality." Bragg took several years off after Don't Try This at Home, choosing to concentrate on fatherhood. He returned in 1996 with William Bloke.

In 1998, he teamed with the American alternative country band Wilco to record Mermaid Avenue, a collection of performances based on unreleased songs originally written by Woody Guthrie. Reaching to the Converted, a collection of rarities, followed a year later, and in mid-2000 Bragg and Wilco reunited for a second Mermaid Avenue set. While touring in support of Mermaid Avenue, Vol. 2, Bragg formed the Blokes in 1999 with Small Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan. Lu Edmonds (guitar), Ben Mandelson (lap steel guitar), Martyn Barker (drums), and Simon Edwards (bass) solidified the group while Bragg moved from London to rural Dorset in early 2001. One year later, the Blokes joined Bragg for England, Half English, his first solo effort since William Bloke.

In 2004, Bragg collaborated with Less Than Jake for "The Brightest Bulb Has Burned Out," a track included on the Rock Against Bush, Vol. 1 compilation. The two-CD Must I Paint You a Picture? The Essential Billy Bragg appeared in 2003 with initial copies featuring a third bonus CD of collectibles and rarities. The Yep Roc label released the box set Volume 1 in 2006. The set included seven CDs and two DVDs of previously unavailable live footage, and the label simultaneously reissued four titles from Bragg's early back catalog in expanded editions. Billy Bragg spent the next year recording in London, Devon, and Lincolnshire, and 2008 saw the release of Mr. Love & Justice, his first solo effort in six years. Although the Blokes served as Bragg's backing band on the album, a limited-edition package also included a second disc comprised of intimate solo recordings. The barebones Woody Guthrie-inspired Tooth & Nail arrived in early 2013 and the following year brought the DVD & CD set, Live at the Union Chapel, which included an encore performance of Life's a Riot with Spy vs. Spy in its entirety as a bonus feature. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

kevin-burns9
Man oh man California stars is like no other tune with such so much mystic and cooool vibes!!!!pkb 4 5
kevin-burns9
Yeah man this says it all love this California stars is just soooo!!! Cooool!! Pkb45
California Stars - a GREAT song
kevin-burns9
Yeah baby California stars all the way. Always on mind pkb
mammerjams
GREAT song. Watch the movie and the song will mean something different to you.
California Stars
one of my favorites thanks Pandora
>>>>CALIFORN I A STARS
An amazing collaboratio n .
tomaidh2
I saw him once, performing in the Bellows Falls, Vermont train station. Blew my mind!
Strayduke ur a complete idiot
Uhh, roy.perrine just so you know 99% of your money would go to good ole capatilist labels, distros, sites, etc.. But or don't buy, but don't worry the artist ai'nt gonna get much at all.
roy.perrine
I like his music ,but won't buy any! Refuse to support leftist causes.
dont read this because it actually works. You will get kissed on the nearest possible friday by the love of your life. tommorrow will be the best day of your life. however if you do not post this comment to at least 3 songs you will die in 2 days. now youve started reading this so dont stop. this is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in at least 143 minutes when if done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is scary cuz it actually work
unkleboo
Coming to Madison, Wisconsin on July 10 Hellz yeah boyeeeeeeeee
Live in NE seeing him this Friday at Stone Mountain
Going to see Bragg next Thursday. My first time ever! Been a fan for over 15 years! I live in New England, and he hardly ever comes here. Had tickets for a show last April, but then his mother passed :(. SOO excited to finally catch him live!
This guy is a Brit who doesn't sound like a Brit. When he sings, he sounds like Austin.
Seeing him in a month. Forth time in 13 years. Sucks to be in the states and in the South. He keeps swearing he'll cross the mason dixie line but keep seeing to miss him. Can't wait!
woody wrote these words and thy were given to B.B and Wilco RIGHT ! what a strugle it must have been to think what woody would have done with the words. If you dont like every song listen to ( my flying saucer ) and go from there. Who chose B.B and Wilco to put music to the words ? Someone with woodys best interest in mind. Woody ( R.I.P )
MR. Nichols. Please visit both Mermaid Avenue records. Also all Wilco productions. U will melt
California Stars is an absolute hit.
How have I missed this fella? I love this track. He does take you for a ride, and it is a good one.
spinandshift
hey i tried buying 'when the roses bloom again' on: 'chealsea walls (soundtrack) ' album. the url that popped up had a redirect message or something, and iTunes could not link the the album. ??? would be good to pass along to billy bragg guys and record co. i'm not sure how to connect to them. in the spirit of billy bragg, this is my offical first post to this thing. thank you for the open source spirit and community. don't be evil, and i'll try to do the same.
makes you want to groove to the music---I like it alot.
"distinctly British subject matter"?... I think he touches a universal note.
May God bless this effort. If you can't dig this...man.. . W h a t is your major malfunction? Check out "Hot Rod Hotel" from the same album. It just doesn't get any better. Long live American Music.
I hate the term anti-folk. Erlewhine seems to love it, and I don't really like his writing - too pompous and muddy. I don't see how this music can be categorized as anti-folk because it sounds pretty folksy to me, especially since they are singing unreleased Woody Guthrie songs. Bottom line: I like the music and hate the review.
This is one talented SOB.
tina650
Ever listened to God Street Wine?
i really like this guy!
if you like this check out the sadies!
andylarimer
You guys should check out "Man in the Sand" the documentary film about the making of Mermaid Avenue. Really interesting film. Shows all the interaction between Billy, Wilco, Natalie Merchant and Nora Guthrie.
kmiranda's right. Pandora needs Talking With the Taxman About Poetry. It's my favorite BB.
WILLY!
BILL!
BILLY!
This is Billy Bragg and Wilco. The Ghost Of Woody! I have to agree that volume one is better than two. I still enjoy both. However, i think the concept of these albums is great and really had a chance to be something special but just fell short of it's potential.
pinkoblues
Where the hell is Volume 1?
The first of the 2 albums is the better though they both have good things on them. I could do with out Natalie Merchant for the most part.
kmiranda7
Billy Bragg's music takes you along for a ride, I wish there were some of his older stuff available here...witho u t that, the Bragg experience is incomplete.

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