I last witnessed the bard of Barking live at St. George's, in Brighton, when the singer songwriter, political activist, and musical historian made good on his obsession with the songs and the mythology of the Americas, not least those of his artistic and philosophical forebear Woody Guthrie.
"Shine A Light – Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad" was a collection of railway-themed classic songs recorded in the course of a sixty-five hour journey across the US on the Texas Eagle railroad service.
Billy Bragg said:
"Railroad songs provided the bedrock of American popular music, from Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman, to Lead Belly, whose repertoire provided several of the songs for this project.
"In this country, Lonnie Donegan's 1956 hit "Rock Island Line" sparked the skiffle craze, inspiring a generation of British teens to pick up guitars and form the groups that invaded America in the 60s, from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin.
"Growing up in the UK, I'd always been aware of this tradition but when I travelled to the US, I was surprised to find how few people look to the railroad as a means of transport.
"With this project, we wanted to explore the transformative power that the coming of the railroad had on the lives of ordinary people by taking these songs back to the places that inspired their creation.
"Travelling on the train and recording the songs as we went allowed us to both visit places that were important 125 years ago when the lines were laid, but to also explore the viability of the railroad as a means of transport in the 21st century."
In March 2016 Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, guitars in hand, boarded a Los Angeles-bound train at Chicago's Union Station.
Winding along 2,728 miles of track, the pair recorded songs while the train paused to pick up passengers.
In waiting rooms and at the track side in St Louis, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Alpine TX, El Paso and Tucson they set up their recording equipment, and performed classic railroad songs while keeping half an eye on the train and jumping back on board just before pulling out for the next town.
After four days crossing the country, they pulled into Los Angeles at 4:30am, recording their final song in Union Station accompanied by the first chirpings of the dawn chorus.
Joe Henry added: "The emergence of the railroad in America boasted of our might and sprawling enormity, yet signaled a deep desire for close community, connectivity.
"The songs that grew out of and alongside this innovation remain to tell this story of collective national character."
Billy then went on to tour the UK/Ireland on his epic 'One Step Forward, Two Steps Back' tour in 2019.
But now he's looking forward to 2021:
"In these challenging times, we all need something to hang on to. Like everyone else, my plans for 2020 have been disrupted by the pandemic, but today I'm announcing an extensive UK & Irish tour for this time next year to give me something tangible to work towards.
"My hope is that, by then, we'll be able to get together again and enjoy the uplift that live music brings, to audience and performer alike."
Tickets for the date on Tuesday 23rd November 2021 go on sale at 10am on Friday 16th October and will be available from gigst.rs/BillyBragg and