Love is a battlefield, so the song says, and the ground is consecrated with the blood of lost affairs and decimated hearts. Witness one of the most decorated of veterans revisiting the sight of his past altercations. When the great British folk rock musician, Richard Thompson, sifts through the shrapnel of misbegotten romance and displaced affections he does so with more panache, elegance, humor and musicianship than anyone else left standing.
Sweet Warrior is Thompson's first electric album since 2003's Mock Tudor and plays on the theme of love as war which he graphically displays on the cover art. Thompson, in camouflage make-up and military dress, is flanked by two lovely ladies who place tentative kisses on his bearded cheeks while he stares blankly into the camera, perhaps shell-shocked by love. Thompson shakes of the lethargy and marches into songs that seethe with self-deprecating humor and vitriol. "Mr. Stupid" is a prime example of that self deprecation we've come to know from earlier songs like "Crawl Back," featuring a sarcastic protagonist who knows all too well a lover's condescending tone. "Poppy Red" expresses the ultimate pain of loss as the singer laments his deceased lover. "Francesca" reveals a new side to Thompson musical persona as he pairs up a tenor sax with a reggae beat.
The record's pinnacle moment comes in "Dad's Gonna Kill Me" a brilliant anti-war anthem as told through the perspective of a war weary G.I.. Thompson was inspired to write the song after reading blogs from soldiers currently stationed in Bagdad (referred to as "Dad" in the blogs and song). On the Huffington Post blog Thompson writes, "I've always been interested in military slang -- it's always colourful, and usually gets to the heart of the matter, and cuts through whatever bulls--t the generals and politicians are spouting." The song is a chilling reminder of the daily stress of wartime existence.
Thompson aficionados will not be surprised to hear the familiar ring of Thompson's guitar, his biting, bittersweet, witty lyrics, his vocals that so deftly convey aching sadness and biting cynicism with equal aplomb, and the stellar musicianship displayed throughout the release. Is there anyone more consistently excellent? Joining the revered troubadour is long-time musical cohort and bassist Danny Thompson and backing vocalist Judith Owens. Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek also offers her fiddle expertise to the enterprise. They're excellent support in Thompson's continuing conflict with the vicissitudes of love.