Nashville, Tenn. based alternative rock singer and guitarist Alicia Bognanno of Bully released a home video of Billy Bragg’s “A New England.” This release marks Bully’s third cover during the pandemic. The band released covers of Nirvana’s “About a Girl” and Orville Peck’s “Turn to Hate” in May. The band also released the album Sugaregg in August.
Regarding her work during the COVID 19 pandemic, the singer explains, “It’s been interesting definitely, doing live streams and stuff. It’s not really something I ever assumed I would ever be doing, but it’s a learning experience for sure and I think I’ve grown as an artist now having that as an option. So, it’s got its ups and downs. But I mean, what else are we going to do, you know? I don’t want to hold off forever.”
“A New England” was originally written by Billy Bragg and released on his 1983 album Life’s a Riot with Spy Vs Spy. The first two lines of the song “I was 21 years when I wrote this song/I’m 22 now, but I won’t be for long” were taken from Simon and Garfunkel’s song “Leaves that Are Green” from their Sounds of Silence album in 1966.
The song gained more success when late UK singer Kirsty McColl covered it a year later. Her version of “A New England” reached number seven on the UK Singles Chart in 1985 and number eight in the Irish Singles Chart the same year.
Bragg’s original version of “A New England” only had two verses. McColl thought that it was two short and added another verse. McColl stated that Bragg’s “version was just the skeleton of the song, so I wanted to dress it up.” After her death, Bragg includes the additional verse when he plays the song live as a tribute to McColl.
Bully has shown the world that “A New England” can sound good in another genre. Bully’s acoustic version of “A New England” has more of an American folk feel than Bragg’s or McColl’s versions. Bragg’s version had somewhat of a folk punk edge while McColl’s version sounded more new wave. Since McColl’s release, many other artists have covered the song, however Bully’s version appears to be the first time the song was performed with a Southern twist.
Photo Credit: Kalyn Oyer