Richard Thompson’s career is significant in the annals of folk rock, a founding member of Fairport Convention in the sixties he went onto capture the hearts of many with the release of his first solo album Henry the Human Fly, in 1972. He has released over 40 albums. His guitar skills are as sharp as his pen and he has trodden a very self-confident path that continues to impress his fans and peers around the world.
Dream Attic is his latest release which is a powerhouse of an album. He hasn’t lost his sharp wit or political awareness as he launches the album with Money Shuffle, an appetizer which points a firm finger at Wall Street with a cracking opening line:
I love kittens and little babies
Can’t you see that’s the guy I am
Your money is so safe with me
You never met such an honest man
Glossies on my office wall
The rich and famous, I know them all
The album is not short on variety which was intentional on Thompson’s part. With a keen sense of tempo he balances the album between British traditional sounding ballads such as Among the Gorse, Among the Grey to the dancier tunes like Haul Me Up that powers along like a gospel classic.
Richard Thompson digs back into his 61 years of history to write of the past with wit and sobriety, Demons in Her Dancing Shoes is set in the 1960s of East London:
On Chapel Street the totters’ carts
Cry, Old rags and lumber
People gassing, like the Tower of Babel
On Chapel Street there’s coffee bars
Where the villains meet the stars
And money’s changing hands under the table
whilst A Brother Slips Away is a more sobering reflection on friends he has recently lost, including Davy Graham:
Davy, it was through your eyes
We saw so many things
The dusty feet of pilgrims
The halls of mountain kings
That old poet’s vision
Still coursing through your veins
It breaks my heart that I will never
See your face again
There are some catchy numbers that offer a pop melodic structure that Thompson does not shy away from and openly admits to enjoy playing (in his own unique style, of course). Big Sun Falling in the River is pretty much up there in the pop stakes with an upbeat feel and an almost Michael Jackson styled guitar rift…but don’t be fooled…there are few if any happy songs on here. What did you expect. As he recently admitted:
I do two kinds of songs: downtempo depressed songs and uptempo depressed songs
That aside, there is plenty to smile about, just the pure genius of his songmanship is enough to glee over. Sidney Wells is a dark murder ballad that tells the story of a lorry driver who charms unsuspecting women…one victim is a waitress who’s body he doesn’t make a very good job of disposing. He is eventually caught but the inmates get there before the electric chair:
They put him in the jail, he was ready for the worst
Justice would be served, but who would get there first?
He bled just like a pig slaughtered on the farm
The inmates weren’t impressed by Sidney Wells’ charm
What I love about Thompson is that despite the dark imagery he musically conjures up on the electric version of Sidney Wells he plays a cheerier tune on the acoustic version with what sounds like a mandolin…not the choice instrument for adding darkness to a tune but it does make it all the more provocative.
For those that love variety you can’t go wrong with this album, the combination of tempo, song, jaw dropping guitar solos, and all by the master of British Folk Rock…an outstanding album!
If you do buy it, get the deluxe version for the extra acoustic CD.
Buy CD: Dream Attic (Deluxe Edition)