The sign of any half-decent artist is being able to define their music against their age. Bowie is probably the best example. It's a mighty long way down rock 'n' roll from Major Tom to The Next Day; Dylan does it rather well (although quantity over quality gets in the way.)
And then there's the Boy Bragg.
What I absolutely love about yer man Bill is that each album defines the artist there and then.
Forward ever, backwards never, Comrades.
Life's a Riot is the revolutionary album.
Brewing Up mellows the young man.
Talking with the Taxman looks away from a New England and towards the States.
Worker's Playtime realises that you can't change politics until you have changed the personal.
The Internationale does as it said, as well as being a little WEIRD.
Don't Try This at Home is bloated, but captures a man not sure which direction he is heading. It still contains some beautiful songs.
William Bloke is the post-sabbatical baby and me album.
It all then goes a little Americana with the Woody stuff, before landing back in Blighty and sticking it to the BNP with English, Half English.
Billy Bragg seems comfortable at every stage in his career, growing old gracefully, yet still having something to say. It's hard to think of many other artists that feel so at ease along their own timeline.
I tend to dip in and our of the Boy Bragg with no such similar linear progression. Some days I'm all grown up with William Blokes; other days I'm taking to the frontline and living out Life's a Riot.
A framed picture of all Bragg albums up to the Greatest Hits greets me each morning in my living room. I'm playing Bragg bingo when deciding upon how I feel that particular morning.
I should really head back to my drum 'n' bass days.