Bragg Explores Englishness On New Album
Politically active singer/songwriter Billy Bragg will release "England, Half-English," his first album of self-penned material in more than five years, March 4 in the U.K. via Cooking Vinyl, and a dayPolitically active singer/songwriter Billy Bragg will release "England, Half-English," his first album of self-penned material in more than five years, March 4 in the U.K. via Cooking Vinyl, and a day later in the U.S. through Elektra. Longtime producer Grant Showbiz (the Fall, the Smiths) once again collaborated with Bragg on the set, which was inspired by Colin MacInnes' 1961 book of the same name and explores notions of Englishness in an increasingly multicultural society.
"Identity is purely personal; it's what you think you are," Bragg says. "It only becomes a problem when someone else tells you what you are." Bragg is supported on the album by his band the Blokes, which includes Ian McLagan, a former member of the Faces. The band is rounded out by Ben Mandelson (lap steel guitar), Lu Edmonds (electric guitar, vocals), Martyn Barker (drums), and Simon Edwards (bass).
The new set follows two Grammy-nominated albums -- "Mermaid Avenue" (1998) and "Mermaid Avenue Vol. 2" (2000) -- which consisted of lost Woody Guthrie songs that Bragg recorded with U.S. alt-country rockers Wilco. Released by East West in the U.K. and Elektra in the U.S., those albums debuted on The Billboard 200 at No. 90 and No. 88, respectively. To date, they have sold a combined 361,000 copies in the U.S., according to SoundScan.
"The 'Mermaid Avenue' sessions taught me a lot about the joys of collaboration, about writing and playing songs with other people," Bragg says. "With this album, I have tried to carry that spirit on."
The first single will be the workers' anthem "NPWA" (no power without accountability), which has already been sent to U.S. adult alternative stations for airplay consideration, with rock and alternative stations in line for an early March airplay push. A preview of the song can be heard on Elektra's new Bragg Web site.
Bragg will take to the road with the Blokes March 5 for a 15-date U.K. tour, beginning at the Corn Exchange in Brighton, England, and closing March 23 at the Forum in London. A U.S. tour is planned for April, during which Bragg will appear on several television shows, including "The Late Show With David Letterman" and "Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher."
Here are Billy Bragg's confirmed tour dates:
March 5: Brighton, England (Corn Exchange)
March 6: Norwich, England (Waterfront)
March 7: London (Shepherd's Bush Empire)
March 9: Coventry, England (Warwick Arts Centre)
March 10: Manchester, England (the Lowry)
March 11: Cambridge, England (Corn Exchange)
March 13: Salisbury, England (Salisbury City Hall)
March 14: Bristol, England (Bristol Academy)
March 15: Leicester, England (De Montfort Hall)
March 16: Edinburgh (Usher Hall)
March 18: Newcastle, England (Newcastle Opera House)
March 19: Leeds, England (Metropolitan University)
March 20: Liverpool, England (Royal Court Theatre)
March 21: Wolverhampton, England (Wulfrun Hall)
March 23: London (Forum)