Flesh and Blood, Hearts and Minds Billy Bragg & Rosanne Cash

Musical Director:
Vocals, guitars:
Vocals, guitars, grand piano:
Guitar, steel guitar, mandolin:
Earl Harvin

Outspoken – that wonderful English word that describes the character traits of our two guests in the third cycle of Century of Song. From the start Billy Bragg grappled with his social-political leanings in a forthright manner.  As a 20-year old, he bought himself out of the Army at a cost of £175 and set up a punk band instead. He remains consistently politically engaged (for example, during the twelve month miner’s strike, or against racism and neo-liberalism) and expresses his convictions musically too – thus preventing anyone from dismissing him as a mere protest singer. At the end of the nineties, he and his band Wilco recorded two albums of posthumous texts by the folk legend Woody Guthrie, which he also set to music for his record Mermaid Avenue I & II. Engagement is essential to Bragg, it is not merely a pose – something that is made clear in his songs and his voice.

The same could be said of Rosanne Cash, who approaches themes such as the environment or the war in Iraq with the same straightforwardness. Rosanne, daughter of Johnny Cash, is also constantly shifting the boundaries of country music out into other musical branches. For example, she has worked with Jakob Dylan (from the Wallflowers), Joe Henry, Marc Cohn and Lyle Lovett, and has developed a specific tone in her songwriting, which has led her to several number one hits in the American country music charts.

»It would be hard to imagine two songwriters of the last 20 years who have done more individually to reflect broad social themes in such defiantly personal terms. Billy Bragg is well-known for out-spoken songs that speak straight to the heart of issues; but he has managed a most rare feat: always balancing the political with unwavering humanity. Ms. Cash, who is also a novelist and poet, has for decades defied the country tradition that is her heritage by addressing love and loss from the point of view of personal growth and responsibility.« Joe Henry

A RuhrTriennale production