- 29 Oct 21
Bragg dispatches from the frontline.
Dissent has long been Billy Bragg’s terrain. He is a shrewd bodhisattva on The Million Things That Never Happened, a Man Friday who has lived it and understands the landscape. After all, this is the man who received Nora Guthrie’s imprimatur to add music to her father Woodie’s lyrics, which resulted in the Wilco collaboration on 1998’s Mermaid Avenue.
Bragg remains steadfast in the bulwark role he sings about on ‘I Will Be Your Shield’. ‘Good Days & Bad Days’, meanwhile, is vintage Bard of Barking, a man with his guitar against the world: “Get up and get dressed/ Shouldn’t be such a big deal/ And now I don’t know where things end or begin/ the day of the week or the state that I’m in.”
Bragg, often a solitary man who storms the gates alone, is enhanced here by a subtly powerful backing band. The Stodart siblings, Romeo and Michelle from The Magic Numbers, prove vigorous allies. Nick Pynn adds versatile fiddle and lap steel, while Billy’s son Jack Valero is a co-writer on the final track, which is Cockney, clever and conflicting.
Overall, this is a content Bragg, whistling Lennon-style at the curtain call of ‘Reflections On The Mirth Of Creativity’. At album’s end, he there is laughter and bonhomie. The uproarious ‘Freedom Doesn’t Come For Free’ contains the jolly line, “If you leave everything to laissez-faire/ You may have to rassle with a bear/ In the backstreets of Utopia.” Marvellous.
Listen: ‘Freedom Doesn’t Come For Free’
The Million Things That Never Happened
Revisit Billy Bragg's 2019 interview with Hot Press here.