tue 30/05/2017

CD: Richard Thompson - Still | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Richard Thompson - Still

CD: Richard Thompson - Still

Old folk-rocker still going strong

The women he has loved have clearly caused him as much pain as joy
Master folk-rocker still delivers

The songs of Richard Thompson have always been tinged with a hint of bitterness and anger, passions that are tempered by guitar paying of near-miraculous fluency. His new album, produced with brilliance and tact by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, is no exception. The standards are as high as ever, and the self-penned material, with the exception of “Guitar Heroes”, a somewhat tedious homage to masters of the instrument, is characterized by Thompson’s usual mix of poetry and irony.

As with much of Thompson’s previous work, he ranges from the tropes of folk-rock – jaunty yet slightly melancholy tunes in the style of the Morris and other English traditional dances – to almost frantic rockabilly workouts coloured with a touch of punk defiance. In the more gentle ballads, Thompson’s perennially wounded sensibility comes through, his unique voice tinged with vulnerability. He sings as if battered by rejection and loss: the women he has loved have clearly caused him as much pain as joy.

In “Long John Silver”, a merry joust with robber pirates, he seems to be tilting at the profit-hungry moguls of the music business. For all his rock’n’roll attitude, Thompson is a folkie at heart, on the side of the people rather than those who have perennially profited from their labours. He has managed to steer clear of changing fashions and the profit motive, faithful to the inventions of the folk-rock of the early 70s, an amalgam of styles that avoids the dangers of mid-Atlantic fakery and yet draws inspiration from American music.

Jeff Tweedy’s production, with hints of mellotron here and sensitively placed backing vocals there, serves Thompson’s characteristic lack of pretension well. Above all, there is Thompson’s guitar playing: inventive and articulate, yet never playing to the gallery. He is a master of the art, with very few equals in both technique and musicality.

Overleaf: listen to "Broken Doll" from Still

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