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May 02, 2008

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Fugitive Ink

Oh, but you're right, aren't you, about 'Hard Times of Old England' being a bit slow? The original version, handed down through five generations of the Copper Family (website here if anyone's interested), tends to be performed unaccompanied and rather more briskly, while the Imagined Village revision drags slightly under the weight of all that instrumentation. When Bragg played live at the Barbican recently he certainly seemed to go at it with a bit more energy. Whether, on the other hand, pace is a fair price to pay for some relatively nice fiddling is a different point. Well, I guess that's one of the lovely things about folk music: there's no such thing as a definitive performance.

More to the point, though, thanks for reminding me, in that second clip, that Mr Bragg was not always the age he is now. At that same Barbican performance, a friend and I agreed, after 'Sexuality', that the effect was slightly too much like watching your best mate's dad talking about his sex life - embarassing! (My friend and I are both in our 40s - ouch!)

And finally, while it may sound strange to hear a Unionist, monarchist Tory praising a devolutionist, republican progressive's take on nationalism, political culture and historical consciousness, I highly recommend Bragg's 'Progressive Patriot'. Like most of what he produces, even when he seems to me to be completely wrong, there's a basic good-hearted humanity coupled with real originality - he's pretty much always worth hearing.

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