Mr. Love & Justice (Anti-), Billy Bragg's latest album, could have just as easily been called Mr. Mellow and Sensitive. Renowned for his scorching political diatribes and punk-folk persona, Bragg conjures up only meager measures of his customary piss-and-vinegar on L&J in favor of relatively gentle meditations on the politics of love and happiness. Working with Woody Guthrie's lyrics on the Mermaid Avenue projects apparently convinced Bragg that heartfelt expressions about personal relationships can be as compelling as spraying venom. There are a few touches of pub rock, such as the jangly "The Beach Is Free," as well as pointed commentaries on Dubya's war and eroding civil liberties (although musically they owe more to Sam Cooke than the Clash). So it's likely to be a more multifaceted Bragg at this solo performance, keeping the faith on both the political and domestic fronts. Canadian and full-time iconoclast C.R. Avery concocts a punchy combination of slam poetry, hip-hop beats, and bluesy harmonica amidst shadowy bits of country and folk, sometimes evocative of Tom Waits and Lou Reed.
Fri., June 13, 8 p.m., 2008