Richard Thompson "Electric"

In a promotional video for his new album Richard Thompson points out that the distance between personal style and personal cliché is razor thin. How does one avoid not repeating himself, even if he is a virtuoso guitarist and brilliant lyricist with a self-deprecating delivery?

Inspiration came in the form of his touring band which features Thompson on guitar, bassist Taras Prodaniuk, and drummer/percussionist Michael Jerome. In writing for the trio Thompson challenged himself to revise his musical template, creating what he refers to as ‘funk-folk.’

 As Electric opens Thompson's folk credentials are apparent. “Stony Ground” is a rollicking melody that plays off of traditional British Isles rhythms but with an aggressive edge created by Thompson’s guitar. The bawdy lyrics deal with a dirty old man who pays the price for his lascivious ambitions. It sets a new standard for Thompson as a writer, creating an “in-your-face” approach with a minimum of instrumentation. “Sally B” begins as a typical folk oriented Thompson song but builds into a blow-out jam between the three players. “Stuck on the Treadmill” highlights the band’s funk leanings with its thumping bass, throbbing drums, and Thompson’s calisthenics on the fret board.

 Electric is no one-trick pony type of album. Thompson is too smart, too talented for that. He changes up pacing and mood. “Straight and Narrow” begins with a beat provided by drums and organ that sounds like a throwback to 1960’s pop rock. There are several ballads including the pensive “The Snow Goose,” and the heartbreaker “Another Thing In Her Favour.” “Good Things Happen to Bad People” is classic Thompson, mixing rock and folk with smart, sardonic lyrics.

 Electric is beautifully produced by the multi-talented Buddy Miller. Himself a top-notched guitarist, he knows how to bring out the best in another player while still finding the balance between the other instruments. Electric was recorded in Nashville which allowed Miller to bring several local musicians in for additional work. They are bassist Dennis Crouch, fiddler Stuart Duncan, Alison Krauss on backing vocals, and Mr. Miller throws in a lick or two throughout.

 

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)