I like this album very much. Billy Bragg recorded it with producer Joe Henry in Pasadena with a fine American band including pedal steel, which means his sound is a very long way from the angry young man that I first heard in the late 70s, singing and playing solo through a slightly distorted amplifier from the back of a van at a protest rally. This is musically and often lyrically much more mellow, but the old passions are still there and it's an album with real substance.
Overall, there is an Americana-ish feel to the disc, although it is quite varied: for example, when I first heard the opening January Song I thought immediately of Pentangle, and Chasing Rainbows (for me, the only slightly weak track) is an attempt at an out-and-out Country song. The political statements are still there, just dressed in more laid-back clothes. Woody Guthrie again gets moving and intelligent treatment with a great version of I Ain't Got No Home - which remains astonishingly pertinent today - and the original songs are very good, too. For example, in No One Knows Nothing Anymore we get the line, "What happens when the markets drop?...." which is classic Billy Bragg, as is "How can a man be strong/If he can't even lift up the telephone and say he's wrong?" in the lovely Swallow My Pride, and the title of There Will Be A Reckoning speaks for itself.
It's a lovely album to listen to. It is tuneful, very well played and produced and features wearier, softer vocals from Billy Bragg than his earlier material, but his old commitments remain strong and there is real heart and sincerity here. Don't expect Life's A Riot or Talking With the Taxman, but I think it's an excellent album and it's warmly recommended.