Linda Thompson delivers a familiar but amazing album
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 23:10
When I first began listening to the music of Richard and Linda Thompson, I was treated to some of the most vibrant and gorgeous British folk tunes I had ever heard. After their personal and professional split following the acclaimed “Shoot Out the Lights,” Linda has worked infrequently, but still with astonishing quality. Every song crafted meticulously and delicately, and nearly forty years after the genesis of her career her vocals are no less rich or powerful.
Her newest effort “Won’t Be Long Now,” is no stylistically different from her previous works, and there’s nothing wrong that. It’s another collection of homely and visceral folk songs. It’s almost entirely acoustic, with only the vivacious “As Fast As My Feet” being driven my electric guitar. The rest is acoustic guitar, every chord punctuated and distinct, but the melodies are smooth as velvet, mixed appropriately with violin, fiddle, cello and banjo. What makes “Won’t Be Long Now” special is the slew of accompanying musicians, all drawn from British folk circles, it practically makes the album a festival. It includes John Doyle, Martin Carthy, his frequent collaborator Dave Swarbrick, Amy Helm and a number from the Thompson family, including her ex-husband Richard with whom she reunites in the gloriously melancholy opening track, “Love’s For Babies and Fools.” It’s another shining example of their Celtic blues.
The instrumentation isn’t as complex as Linda’s previous albums “Fashionably Late” or “Versatile Heart” nor is the atmosphere as potent. But the more simplistic production gives the music a more raw and traditional feel, which suits the lyrical subject matter well. It’s reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel albums in that the sound is so pure one can’t even tell whether its studio recorded or live. One track is live, and I didn’t realize until applause erupted at the end.
At the center of it all is Linda’s weighty vocals, sliding through octaves with unbroken elegance. No song of hers is ever light on emotion, from the jubilant, string laden “Mr. Tams” to the somber “Never Put To Sea Boys.” The best display of which is “Blue Bleezin’ Blind Drunk” where she performs unaccompanied telling a somber tale of a woman who can only deal with her abusive husband with alcoholism. That track, like all the others on the album, is filled with powerful lyrics and striking imagery. The rhymes fall into place seamlessly and Linda’s voice is versatile to suit any character. “Father Son Ballad” is the most vivid of the set, dourly describing the horrors of the world. But by far the best song is the title track, which closes out album, where Linda album making the most of life before a nearing death. It’s a song of such mixed emotions I didn’t know whether to smile or cry.
This as an outstanding collection of tunes without a single lapse in musicianship or fluctuations in quality. I can’t quite say it’s Linda Thompson’s best work, but that is only because much of it borders on perfect.