Like father, like daughter, after releasing a critically acclaimed solo album, Kami Thompson has now joined forces with her spouse, former Pretenders guitarist James Walbourne, to work as a duo, which, inevitably, will see their debut album referenced to that of folk music legends Richard and Linda Thompson. It certainly doesn’t suffer by comparison, although, unlike her parents recordings, it combines original material with arrangements of traditional tunes.
Indeed, they kick off with the latter in the shape of the lilting, predominantly acoustic Bonnie Portmore, Kami taking lead with James providing harmonies and guitars. It’s a perfectly straightforward reading, whereas murder ballad William Taylor, on which they share vocals, takes a more electric approach that may remind some of a lighter touch early Steeleye Span. Though self-penned, the shanty-flavoured Jealous Sailor, with James again on lead, is firmly of a trad persuasion and, one of five numbers to which she contributes, features some suitably fiery fiddle from Eliza Carthy.
Sharing verses, Younger, a playful song about age-difference romance that waltzes on mandolin and piano, suggests Thompson’s inherited her father’s affection for the music hall and comes with the sort of chorus Harry Lauder would have adored.
Of the two parents, it’s Richard’s influence that’s most palpable, even down to Kami’s vocal inflections on the slow swaying, reflective and heart-weary Fair Warning with the brass flourished Breakneck Speed underscoring the R&L similarities (even if she sounds a little more like Kirsty MacColl here), although, on the evidence of the gutsy Panic Attack Blues, James appears to have drunk more from the Seth Lakeman well.
He’s in muscular form too with Borstal, another fired-up electric guitar driven trad styled number about a murderous jealous lover that bursts into a springheeled chorus. In the interests of gender equality, the album also has a song about a woman’s correction centre. James is upfront for the wounded lover’s Send Her To Holloway, a glittering diamond of a song with a chorus (“send her to Holloway with the whores, the hustlers and the runaways, lock her up behind steel bars and plan an extended getaway”) that hooks into your head and refuses to leave. With Kami on harmonies, it might have a different theme, but this has all the makings of being their I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight.
Thompson takes lead on the bouncy, mandolin and lap steel backed Grace Of God, another example of their way with an infectious chorus before the album closes with just the two of them on vocals and acoustic guitars for Habit, another nod to the music hall with a dash of ragtime and a nifty fingerpicked solo.
Across the course of six albums, Richard and Linda Thompson established themselves as enduring British folk rock legends. Island having resurrected their classic 60s pink label just for them, daughter and son-in-law seem highly likely to follow in their footsteps.
Review by: Mike Davies
Tour Dates & Festivals
03 – Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London
14 – Sherwood Forest, Nottingham
27 – Dalby Forest, Dalby
04 – Delemere Forest, Chester
20 – Larmer Tree Festival, Salisbury,
24 – Port Elliot Festival, St. Germans,
03 – Cambridge Folk Festival, Cambridge,
14 – Green Man Festival 2014, Crickhowell
15 – FolkEast Festival, Woodbridge,
05 – Festival Number 6, Portmeirion, United Kingdom (w/ Los Campesinos!)
Fair Warning is out now via Island Records