×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Billy Bragg

Elektra Records executives lobbied hard for the just-issued Woody Guthrie commemorative postage stamp, Billy Bragg contended at the House of Blues; now, he contends they're pushing for stamps honoring Natalie Merchant, Metallica and Old Dirty Bastard.

With:
Band: Billy Bragg, Bob Egan, Ian McLagen, Sarah Brown, Don Harvey.

Elektra Records executives lobbied hard for the just-issued Woody Guthrie commemorative postage stamp, Billy Bragg contended at the House of Blues; now, he contends they’re pushing for stamps honoring Natalie Merchant, Metallica and Old Dirty Bastard.

Bragg’s touring to promote promoting his new Elektra album, “Mermaid Avenue,” consisting of previously unheard lyrics from the Guthrie archives, with melodies by Bragg and his backing band on the album, Wilco. For the show, which stops at New York’s Bottom Line July 2, his band of former Faces keyboardist Ian McLagen, three Yanks and Londoner Bragg alternated the “new” Guthrie songs with several of his own.

From the sound of the audience’s reaction, many in the full house were as familiar with songs including “Milkman of Human Kindness” from the Bragg songbook as they were anxious to hear unfamiliar material by Arlo Guthrie’s father.

The lengthy set, interrupted by Bragg’s insightful reflections on Guthrie’s place in history and the history of the project, as well as his glee at the current World Cup soccer championships, served both Guthrie and Bragg well: the songs were entertaining, showed a lot of variety, and frequently made their liberal political points. One of many highlights was “The Unwelcome Guest,” an ancient-sounding ballad of a highwayman inspired, Bragg contended, by Englishman Dick Turpin — “the man who inspired Adam Ant.”

While Bragg didn’t exactly bring Guthrie into the 1990s, he certainly often brought the music into the ’60s, with the band giving “Walt Whitman’s Niece” an arrangement suggesting the Coasters’ “Searchin’,” a New Orleans rhumba flavor to “California Stars,” and an overall feel of early electric Dylan (McLagen’s flavorful organ playing certainly helping in that respect).

Bragg says he doesn’t know why he’s categorized as “folk” (let alone “Americana”), but he certainly carries on the populist, activist tradition of Guthrie, Pete Seeger and their companions. His is certainly a “people’s” voice, more like Elvis Costello than Elvis Presley, and his thick accent might be a bit daunting at times. But neither work against the material, and perhaps the best news of all is that Bragg and Wilco have 15 more Guthrie songs in the can, and the archives include (he says) 2,500 lyrics yet to be sung.

Billy Bragg

House of Blues, Los Angeles; 1000 capacity; $20

Production: Promoted inhouse. Reviewed June 25, 1998.

Cast: Band: Billy Bragg, Bob Egan, Ian McLagen, Sarah Brown, Don Harvey.

More Music

  • The Top 10 Portrayals of Record

    The Dirt on Rock's Great Enablers: 10 Memorable Screen Portrayals of Record Execs

    In the Netflix biopic “The Dirt,” Pete Davidson of “Saturday Night Live” fame portrays A&R exec Tom Zutaut, the man who signed Motley Crue to Elektra and Guns N’ Roses to Geffen, while veteran character actor David Costabile (“The Wire,” “Billions”) is manager Doc McGhee. They follow in a long and illustrious line of label [...]

  • MTV EMAs to Be Held in

    MTV EMAs to Be Held in Seville, Spain

    The MTV EMAs are returning to Spain, heading for the city of Seville after last year’s edition in Bilbao, MTV announced Monday. The 26th annual MTV Europe Music Awards, which will feature acts and music from around the world, is to take place Nov. 3. “We are thrilled to land in Seville for the 2019 [...]

  • R. Kelly

    Dubai Government Says No R. Kelly Concerts Planned in United Arab Emirates

    The government of Dubai has denied that any R. Kelly concerts are planned in the United Arab Emirates after Kelly’s attorney asked a Chicago judge last week to delay a ruling on the R&B singer’s request to travel to Dubai to perform. Local newspaper “The National,” which has government ties, carried a story Monday quoting [...]

  • Singer Scott Walker Dead at 76

    Singer Scott Walker Dies at 76

    Scott Walker, the American singer who attained massive success as a pop star in England before veering off into avante-garde music, has died, according to his label, 4AD. He was 76; no cause or date of death was immediately announced. “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Scott Walker,” a post [...]

  • Noah CentineoNickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, Show,

    Kids’ Choice Awards 2019: JoJo Siwa, Noah Centineo Take on Bullying

    This year’s Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards was full of positivity and encouragement to be yourself. DJ Khaled, known for his upbeat mantras, hosted the 32nd annual awards ceremony alongside JoJo Siwa at USC’s Galen center. Siwa accepted the award for favorite social music star. Siwa said in her acceptance speech, “I get hated on every [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content