Recommended gig Sion Russell Jones, Brigyn & Little Arrow at St John's Church, Canton, Cardiff on Saturday 10th November 7.30pm. Tickets available from:
Few have done more to keep the spirit of British folk troubadour alive in the past 30 years than Billy Bragg. Although he cut his musical teeth in punk band Rif Raf it was after a brief spell in the army that he began performing solo eventually releasing his first album Life's A Riot in 1983. The album featured the classic 'New England' later covered and a big hit by Kirsty MacColl. Much of Bragg's music during this early period was heavily influenced by the politics of the time with the Conservative Government, high unemployment and the 1984 miner's strike. Bragg was vocal in his support of the miners and played numerous benefits for the miners and their families. The following year he helped form the Red Wedge collective of like minded musicians such as Jimmy Somerville and Paul Weller.
Most of the early recordings of Bragg consisted of voice and guitar. However, in 1986 he released Talking with the Taxman featuring a full band. Augmented by other musicians this much more commercial sound gave Bragg his first top 10 album and featured such classic songs as 'Levi Stubbs' Tears' and 'There Is a Power In The Union'. Continuing to tour and record throughout the 1980s he signed a four album million pound deal with Go! Discs! in 1991, but despite chart success with songs such as 'Sexuality' sales did not increase and the deal was ended early. Things then went fairly quiet when he took time out to raise his son. Returning to recording in 1986 with William Bloke album he was then contacted by Woody Guthrie's daughter and asked to help set some long lost Woody Guthrie lyrics to music. This resulted in the critically acclaimed Mermaid Avenue and Mermaid Avenue ll a joint project with American band Wilco.
Billy Bragg continues to be a tireless campaigner against injustice and racism. Even as recently as January 2010 he decided to withhold paying taxes in opposition to the bonuses being given out to Royal Bank of Scotland employees. A facebook campaign group attracted over 30,000 supporters. He is also a key member of the Featured Artists Coalition an organisation representing the rights of recording artists. In addition to this Billy Bragg continues to write, record and tour and in 2009 became one of the few UK artists to actually undertake a tour of Wales. At the age of 52 he shows no sign of mellowing or slowing down. He has remained true to his principles and at the same time has produced some of the most enduring music of the past 3 decades.
Billy Bragg will be appearing at the year's Green Man Festival taking place 20th - 22nd August.