Home Read Classic Album Review: Billy Bragg & the Blokes | England, Half English

Classic Album Review: Billy Bragg & the Blokes | England, Half English

The U.K. rabble-rouser moves from angry young man to self-assured troubadour.

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This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


After spending a few years celebrating Great American Songwriter Woody Guthrie, folk-punk icon Billy Bragg turns his attention to the work of a Great British Songwriter — himself.

But judging by England, Half English, his first album of new material since 1996’s William Bloke, Bragg’s Yankee sojourn made quite an impression. England’s dozen cuts are smoother, poppier and rootsier than much of Bragg’s old rabble-rousing fare. Not that he’s lost his political voice — the title cut tackles racism, NPWA is an anti-WTO screed, and much of the CD explores his alienation from the England of his youth. But with its expanded lyrical and musical worldview — Bragg’s band of Blokes import reggae, ska and even Algerian folk into these poppy, Costello-ish cuts — England, Half English is less the work of an angry young man than that of an assured, intelligent troubadour. And a Great British Songwriter to boot.