Must I Paint You a Picture?: The Essential Billy Bragg

Must I Paint You a Picture?: The Essential Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg has been a surprisingly resilient and ever-evolving musician and songwriter. Bragg emerged in the U.K. as a “one-man Clash,” spouting forth terse, politically aware tunes that defied an audience to hear beyond his rough-hewn approach. Over the years, he gradually expanded this approach to include pianos, horns, and eventually even a full band. His politics often simmered just under the surface of his romantic concerns and at times took front stage as he projected himself as a leftist folk singer in the Woody Guthrie tradition. This greatest-hits collection shows his natural growth, from his earliest recordings (the bare and poignant “A New England” and “The Man in the Iron Mask”) through his final album to that point (the Bragg-with-band England, Half English). The highlights are consistent throughout, from the shimmering pop of “Greetings to the New Brunette” through the somber “Moving the Goalposts” and “The Space Race Is Over” to the “bonus” cuts that include his moving covers of The Rolling Stones’ “She Smiled Sweetly,” John Cale’s “Fear Is a Man’s Best Friend,” and his duet on Ted Hawkins’ “Cold and Bitter Tears.”

Disc 1

Disc 2

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