England - Full Moon 202 - 02/25/13
Proper Records/New West Records
The album starts really wonderful. A handful of new songs based on Richard's native British folk heritage. Folk-rock as good as it gets. Not ground-breaking in any
ways as his work with Fairport Convention fourtysomething years ago, but rock solid and more instantly catchy than your average Richard
Thompson songs. Uppers where the energy is let loose in "Stony Ground" (a "Matty Groves" for the 21st century) and "Sally B". Beautiful and melancholic downers ("Salford
Sunday" and "My Enemy") and another goodie, "Stuck On The Treadmill", somewhere in between. And of course with the most fantastic electric guitar playing all along. The
next couple of songs ("Good Things Happen To Bad People" and "Where's Home") are harder to swallow. Not that engaging melodies, and they seem a bit over-arranged, especially
the latter, drowning to some extent in backing vocals, fiddles and mandolins. Or maybe it's just the nod in direction of his current home-land, the USA, which appeals
less to me?
The album ends quite wonderful, too; more melancholic stuff on the verge of getting bitter ("Another Small Thing In Her Favour"), a playful nod in direction of 1960s
garage-rock (? And The Mysterians etc.) done with the Thompson twist in "Straight And Narrow" and a fantastic goose-bump raising sparsely arranged British folk ballad
"The Snow Goose". The last song "Saving The Good Stuff For You", another trip cross the Atlantic with fiddle and backing vocals of the rural kind in the west, is performed
as if Richard Thompson was a born and bred American.
And then there are the lyrics. Most of them are gloomy and quite miserable everyday stories of ordinary working people ('The
money goes out, the bills come in, Round and round we go again, I come close but never win'). Life is hard ('Each time
you dealt me a blow, Each time you brought me so low'). One might mistake Richard for a misanthrope if it hadn't been for the twinkle in his eye in between
('Still she kissed me once more, As she gently slammed the door, That's Another Small Thing In Her Favour'). But,
'At the end of the day, it's still too much effort to hate' and after several unsuccessful love affairs/fatal attractions,
if you're lucky, there might enter the one worth 'Saving The Good Stuff For'.
I've earlier claimed I prefer the acoustic solo Richard Thompson in favour of his electric band. Well, as the album title suggests, we're in for the latter here. But
on most occasions it works more than real well. Richard is of course a maestro of the six-stringed electric guitar as well as the acoustic. And on a few occasions, it
sounds as if he plays the acoustic after all. Most notably in "The Snow Goose", almost a solo acoustic guitar song, only augmented by a little bit discreet hurdy-gurdy
at the start and discreet and exquisite backing vocals by Alison Krauss towards the end.
Of all Richard's solo and duo albums, the previous Dream Attic was the one to reach the highest positions in the charts
both in the UK and the US. I guess Electric might do better. Even more potential future Richard Thompson classics and crowd pleasers stuffed in here than ever
before. And for those who can't have enough, there is a Deluxe Edition with seven more songs, not demo versions this time.
Copyright © 2013 JP