Billy Bragg mellows with age but keeps the faith

Fri Oct 24, 2008 3:10pm EDT
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By Karen Brettell

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fatherhood and a 16-year relationship with his partner have mellowed singer Billy Bragg, lending his latest album a softer, more soulful sound than the rousing, sometimes angry, songs of politics and relationships that marked earlier work.

Bragg is in the midst of a U.S. tour promoting his first solo album in six years, "Mr Love & Justice," which tackles the complexities of commitment, love and faith.

"It's the intricacies and intimacies of long term relationships and how to communicate that to people," Bragg told Reuters.

"I'm trying to reflect the world I'm in, rather than where I was, and writing about my own personal dramas of relationships would be about as pointless as writing about Margaret Thatcher, cause it 'aint there no more," he added.

The predominately love-themed work comes after Bragg took a hiatus from song writing to author a book exploring the issue of British nationalism and identity, called "The Progressive Patriot." It was sparked by Bragg's concern over the rise of racism in his home borough of Barking, in East London.

"The album came after 3 years of sort of polemical focus of writing that book," Bragg said. "When I stepped back and the songs that came through were predominately love songs, I just felt that that was the thing reasserting itself, and rightly so, too."

That's not to say that Bragg's interest in themes of broader social change aren't at work on the album, as can be seen in the introductory song, "I Keep Faith."

"That really is not capital 'F' faith, but faith in humanity, faith that can express itself in the form of social solidarity, those kinds of things," Bragg said.   Continued...

<p>Singer Billy Bragg poses at the "Q Awards" in London October 8, 2007. REUTERS/Anthony Harvey</p>