Skip to content
5 Albums I Can't Live Without

5 Albums I Can’t Live Without: Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg sings to support the strikers at the picket line outside Dorset County Hospital, on January 18, 2023 in Dorchester, Dorset. (Credit: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)

Name  Billy Bragg 

Best known for  Being a bit of a commie.

Current city  Weymouth (UK)

Really want to be in  Haida Gwaii. There’s a festival there I’ve always wanted to play.

Excited about  The creative spirit and where it will take me next.

My current music collection  Has a lot of stuff from the late 20th century.

And a little bit of  Spanish harp music.

Preferred format  I’ve grown to appreciate streaming, because it’s everywhere you go.

5 Albums I Can’t Live Without:


Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon & Garfunkel

This is where it starts for me. I heard “The Boxer” on the radio at aged 11 and was hooked into the whole singer-songwriter thing. Obsessively listening to Simon & Garfunkel took me down a rabbit hole that led me to Bob Dylan and, via their recording of “Scarborough Fair,” to the folk music of my own country. 


Motown Chartbusters Vol. 5, Various Artists

I loved all the Motown Chartbusters albums, particularly Vol. 3, but this one was different. In between the brilliant pop tunes, something darker was showing through. Edwin Starr was singing about war. The Temptations were calling the world a ball of confusion. Something had happened since Vol. 4 that changed to tone of Motown’s output. The answer was right there on Side Two, when Marvin Gaye sang “Abraham, Martin and John.” The politics of the civil rights movement had bubbled up into the charts. 


Setting Sons, The Jam

Punk was a watershed moment for me, and the Jam were the first band that grabbed my attention. Paul Weller was just like me: he grew up in the suburbs of London, was 19 years old, and had left school as soon as he could. Seeing his band made me realize that I could do this too. Setting Sons crackles with the energy of someone taking on the world. It’s sharp, shirty, and sure of itself and the album ends with a Motown cover. A great testament of working class youth.


The Hare’s Corner, Colm Mac Con Iomaire

I was given this record by Colm after we both appeared on Other Voices, the Irish radio show recorded in a church in Dingle. He’s plays violin with the Frames, but also makes these brilliant instrumental albums under his own name. The Hare’s Corner is full of beautiful tunes that draw out whatever mood you might be in that day and take you to a better place.


The Weatherman, Gregory Alan Isakov

I discovered this album in the depths of the pandemic and it gave me a way back into songwriting for my most recent album The Million Things That Never Happened. I just love the textures that he creates around his songs, how they illuminate the stories he’s telling and allow what are ostensibly downbeat songs to be uplifting.