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Baker's Dozen

Worker's Playtime: Billy Bragg's Favourite Albums
Colm McAuliffe , March 18th, 2013 07:47

To celebrate the release of his notably personal new album Tooth & Nail today, the outspoken, political singer-songwriter talks Colm McAuliffe through his top records


The Unthanks - Here’s The Tender Coming
I mention The Unthanks because I did a great show with them a couple of years ago on St. George's Day at the Barbican. They are very good representative of a tradition of Englishness that sometimes get dismissed as just twee. People respect Irish, Scottish and Welsh folk music but they tend to pour piss on the English tradition, which is a shame because you could easily find people to pour piss on, [for example, in Scotland] Kenneth McKellar in Scottish music, and [you could] say how crap that is but then you also have people like Ali Bain. The English are slow to come to terms with their own tradition but it's a powerful tradition exemplified by these two women. It's a political tradition - they've taken political songs about feminism - 'The Testimony of Patience Kershaw' - that stands out to me and they're taking the tradition and dusting it down and making it new again. There's a lot of people doing that at present, in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales - but I mention The Unthanks because at that gig at the Barbican, Becky did some clog dancing and the audience were appalled. Appalled at the sight of English folk dancing, they actually recoiled at Becky. It was great to watch because she's as hard as nails, and would knock your block off, and had these great big boots on and just went for it and the audience were like “hmmm… I dunno about this… English people dancing?!” It was very funny to watch - it was already St. George's Day and people were thinking: “is this a bit BNP?!”. That tradition, standing up for that tradition and taking the baton from the Carthys and the Watersons and those people who kept it alive from the seventies and eighties, Becky and Rachel’s parents were really big in the folk club scene and that's borne fruit and it's a very contemporary take.