After a six-year break, Billy Bragg is back with his second go-round with backing band the Blokes, and his second release to steal its title from a Colin MacInnes book—following 2002’s politically charged England, Half English, now comes Mr. Love and Justice, concerned more with the former than the latter, and available as a limited-edition double CD featuring the same songs performed by Bragg solo. In either version, first single “I Keep Faith” is an intimate acoustic piece pledging a bond to one’s love—perfect for a heartfelt, all-or-nothing romantic with a talent for stirring up tenderness without sounding trite or disingenuous. The title track is pleasant but average, while “Farm Boy” has a country-soul sound, broken down by the Blokes to its bare roots. “I Almost Killed You” is punctuated by hand claps and an Irish backbeat, full of joy and resurrected life, while “Something Happened” is the album’s big rock moment, with a great guitar solo by Bragg and a similarly bombastic harmonica outburst by Ben Mandelson. Overall, Mr. Love and Justice is classic Bragg: frequently fantastic folk-rock that keeps both the faith and your attention.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 6, 2008