Review: Richard Thompson – Still


richardthompson-stillYou listen to a Richard Thompson album for its beautifully-constructed songs that veer towards the melancholy. You listen for the lyrical surprises, usually of the cynical and biting variety. And you listen for his mastery of the guitar, whether he’s fingerpicking an acoustic to make it sound like three guitars, or curling electric flourishes around a verse, or ripping a tasteful, Celtic-tinged musical interlude.

If you’re into these sorts of things, then you can’t really go wrong with any of his albums. Still provides everything you’ve come to expect from a Richard Thompson album, plus a little bit more. It was produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, who is clearly a smart enough guy to not mess with Thompson’s signature sound.

But Tweedy brings some subtleties to the table that enhances that sound. Recorded at Wilco’s Loft studio in Chicago, Tweedy adds some warm tones to Thompson’s palette, making the music a little bit less English and a little more Midwestern in flavor.

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Tweedy himself knows a thing or two about great guitarists, having played in a band for many years with Nels Cline, another of the great living rock guitarists. Tweedy know how to make a nice warm musical bed to best showcase the fills and licks of a great guitarist.

On tracks such as “Broken Doll”, Tweedy adds some subtle keyboard atmospherics not seen before on Thompson’s albums, and they fill out the sound, serving to highlight the licks and the lyrics. “All Buttered Up” sounds like a tightly coiled spring that is safely restrained from exploding out of control, and the song’s power comes from that tasteful restraint, just like in a lot of Wilco songs.

Of course, the clever and cynical wordplay is all there. In “Patty Don’t You Put Me Down” Thompson sings:

Patty don’t tell me one thing and change your mind,

We may be in bed together but the deal’s not signed.

You’re so used to skimming the ace and palming the jack,

The right hand dealing and the left hand taking it back,

At society functions they probably give you more slack.

The last track called “Guitar Heroes” is a gas. In it, Thompson emulates the styles of his personal heroes, including Django Reinhart, Les Paul, James Burton, Chuck Berry, and The Shadows. Listening to his skill in delivering these diverse styles, you are tempted to conclude that Thompson may be one case where the student has surpassed his masters.

Release Date: June 23, 2015

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