BILLY BRAGG plays the Danforth Music Hall on Friday (May 3). See listing. Rating: NNN
On Billy Bragg's latest album, the 55-year-old lefty folk-punk musician is more contemplative and melancholic than on his last collection of originals, 2008's energetic Mr. Love & Justice. Tooth & Nail's dozen songs are earnestly delivered but downbeat, set mostly to sparse acoustic guitar and light percussion.
The weariness Bragg admits to in opener January Song can be heard in his voice throughout as he probes existential angst on Robyn Hitchcockesque No One Knows Nothing Anymore, softly rails against relationship expectations on Handyman Blues and gets straight-up lonely on a tender cover of Woody Guthrie's I Ain't Got No Home.
Tunes are brief and simply stated and executed. There's beauty in the unfussiness, and surprises when Americana twang comes in halfway through. Though Bragg leaves behind punk rock fire for the personal, there are still political - and optimistic - moments, weariness be damned.
Top track: There Will Be A Reckoning