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4.4 out of 5 stars77
4.4 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 10 January 2014
The Deluxe Edition of Tooth And Nail is probably the best package for extras I've ever seen for a music CD. Looking like an old Ladybird book, it includes a DVD of Billy's often highly entertsining promo videos from the 80s and 90s, the lyrics for the new album and a handful of articles written by the artist for Q magazine. Beautifully presented but what of the music itself...

Billy sees Tooth And Nail as something of a continuation of the Mermaid Avenue albums he made with Wilco at the turn of the century. Recorded with four supporting musicians over just five days in Joe Henry's studio in South Pasadena, the emphasis is a bit more country than the folk-rock of the Wilco LPs but is nevertheless a very good album of Americana.

Mostly acoustic with none of the clanging electric guitar of Bragg's early albums, the musical settings bring out the very best of Billy's once maligned voice which has never sounded better. The lyrics also complement the music well with a general downbeat, world-weariness not typical of this usually most chipper of artists. Partially influenced by the recent death of his mother, the more introspective highlights include No One Knows Nothing Anymore, Over You and the simple but melodic opener January Song. "This is how the end begins".

It's not all doom and gloom though with the touching Handyman Blues, a humorous ode to all sensitive men who struggle once the package from B&Q arrives. As always with Billy, there's also a large degree of hope in particular with the closing Tomorrow's Going To Be A Better Day - a beacon of light at the end of an album which, like many these days, fades slightly over the final third.

Probably not quite Billy's finest album musically then but still a very fine LP and honest artistic statement. It still has plenty of highlights so I would give the album alone four stars - though the Deluxe Edition certainly deserves the full five.
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on 12 May 2013
Billy Bragg has a reputation for a folky, punky, political style where he uses Estuary English to "reach out."

If that's what you were expecting, this may surprise you.

He recorded this in The USA and the Nashville effect has rubbed off somewhat. It could well be an album by a country star who wanted to become less commercial and show their artistic prowess. The occasional slide guitar gives the game away and the style will of course open up Mr Bragg to a new audience.

For the aficionados? Well, his balls have well and truly dropped here. it is grown up, intelligent, non political, non radical and an all round decent album. If it were a new artist I had never heard of I would be anticipating the next album, as the mix and style is easy on the ear. His voice has lost the accent and developed a growl that suits the mid Atlantic style of the album. I assume that on a tour, he will have to develop a split personality as the voice he uses here might not suit a sudden "I was a miner" chant whilst the old voice might not cut it with these excellent songs.

Buy it and I guarantee you will play it a few dozen times in the first few weeks. The tunes are catchy, the style easy and overall product excellent.

Just a bit surprised to see Billy Bragg make this transition. i like it.
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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.
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I've always liked Billy Bragg a lot. Not so much because of his music, but more for who his is, what he believes in and how he expresses himself. His music has almost been secondary to me, because, while tracks of his are superb in isolation, I've found it difficult to listen to whole albums, even his greatest hits compilation, because of his slightly shout-y singing voice which, unfortunately, just grates on me after a whole. The greatest thing for me about "Tooth & Nail", produced by the excellent Joe Henry (most recently responsible for Hugh Laurie's albums and Chas & Dave's 2013 comeback record, "That's What Happens"), is that Bragg's vocals are softer, more tuneful and much easier on the ear, but the lyrical integrity of Bragg's views and beliefs haven't been toned down at all, so it is just about perfect for me; his voice has literally never sounded better to my ears. The whole of this album is an impressive, eclectic mix of folk, pop, rock, blues, country and Americana all narrated by Bragg's distinctive, but noticeably softened, London accent and thoughtful, human lyrics.

The vast majority of this album really is excellent. Early album highlight, the broadly agnostic-themed "No One Knows Nothing Anymore" is a superb track, both musically and lyrically, the sleepy "Handyman Blues", which speaks of a complete lack of ability when it comes to DIY, is genuinely touching (and could have been written for me) and the sad but dignified "I Ain't Got No Home", a Woody Guthrie composition, describes an unwanted transient life and the unfair imbalance between the rich and poor. "Swallow My Pride" is magnificent, the type of country song of longing and misguided pride that Elvis Costello would probably have covered on "Almost Blue" had it existed then and "Do Unto Others" picks up on one particular truism in the Bible that everybody should at least try to live by and makes a rather fine song from it too. The delta blues-influenced "Over You", with words by Joe Henry, is very enjoyable indeed, "Goodbye, Goodbye", a gentle, acoustic guitar-driven piece, could almost be a perfect fit for a funeral and "Your Name Of My Tongue", with words by Joe Henry and music by Bragg has echoes of "Land of Hope and Glory", but the passionate delivery and cascading piano makes this my final pick from this excellent album.

Although, arguably, "Tooth & Nail" fades a little towards the end (the strongest songs do seem to be weighted towards the front half of the album), this is a really pleasurable listening experience from start to finish. His world-weary, expressive voice caresses and persuades as he presents his credentials as a musician and singer here more successfully than at any other time in his career. Yes, this superb piece of work is a long way away from his image of the angry young man, the rebel with plenty of causes, but, for me, this is just about the best album that Billy Bragg has ever put his name to. Of course, huge fans of Billy may disagree and find this new direction about as welcome as David Cameron would be at one of his gigs, but with his wonderful lyrics as sharp as ever and his often abrasive vocal style having the edges sanded down a bit, "Tooth & Nail" is not only one of the best things I have heard from Bragg, it is one of the finest albums I have heard all year.
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on 9 April 2013
Honestly I expected something else from Billy Bragg than doing an off the cuff hillbilly album. Compared to "Back to Basics" and "Worker's playtime" it's a daring move into a new direction. The vocals on "Swallow my pride" sound heartwrenching to my ears, "January song" has a solid underlying groove and can be regarded as a kind of signature song on this album, incorporating the spirit of this release, which reminds me a little of "Leaving blues" by Taste back in 1969. And this is also the overall atmosphere of the whole album. This record takes me back to the late 60s, bringing images of long haired and unkempt youths, sick of phoney and square western civilisation and performing endless blues sessions with slide guitars in smokey rehearsing rooms and clubs("Handyman blues"). Well, I guess I'm exaggerating a little here, but who knows? Maybe good old Rory Gallagher would have made a similar album in his fifties. All in all I've discovered a silent and very mature Billy Bragg here, missing a little the rougher outline of his earlier releases but then again: An artist like Billy Bragg never walks on the same ground again and each of his albums has marked a new horizon. He truly is (and will always be) an authentic urban folk musician!
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on 6 February 2016
Have been a big billy fan for years, seen gigs etc.
The Deluxe Edition of Tooth And Nail is an example of really good packaging for extras I've seen for a music CD.
This is another solid album from him, in a nicely crafted book shaped cover - like and old school book.

Nice album art, and sleeve notes.
A great selection of songs too - it has the continued American feel of mermaid avenue, and I believe many of the songs were written on his last tour to the states

It's lovely to listen to. Has a nice variety of tunes, and nicely crafted by billy and his band.
As he gets older his vocals have got softer, but he still doesn't shy away from his ideals, so the songs remain strong, and he has real heart.

Its a different experience to his early material, but still highly recommended.
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on 2 May 2013
A beautiful album from a mellow and thoughtful sounding Billy Bragg. Still the same messages but in a velvet glove. Stand out for me must be the ??only?? song about the Haldron Collider (that I cant even spell to show my lack of IQ!).
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on 21 April 2013
As a big fan of Billy Bragg I always enjoy his new albums alongside his classics from the last few decades, but Tooth & Nail really is a gem! Billy's voice sounds mellow and soulful to suit this new adventure into a southern country sound. From the genius lyrics of Handyman Blues to the heartfelt melodies of Swallow My pride and Your Name On My Tongue, this album is a real beauty full of high quality musicianship, poetry and humanity! Buy it, buy it, but it - and catch Billy live if you can, an evening with Mr Bragg is an absolute treat!!
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on 12 April 2013
If not it's bloody close. His choice of Producer, Joe Henry, is a masterstroke and the album is well written, well produced and just full of quality. Plus, and I've never said this before, but Billy's vocals are just brilliant! I've never had an issue with his singing voice, but it is excellent on this album.
Sod it, ignore me...just go and buy it!
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