Album Review: Richard Thompson - Electric
By: Stormy Lewis
Twenty one successful projects over the course of forty-five years would be an impressive job record in any field. When that field is music, those projects are albums and each is more innovative than the last, there are only a handful of singers the record could belong to. Richard Thompson is one of the few living artists who could top the list. Thompson has made a name for himself on a sweeping collection of albums, both solo and with a variety of partners, most frequently his ex-wife Linda. His new album Electric is a full throttle rock and roll blow out, with a biting tone that fits the times. Electric is a fitting name, both for the searing guitar solos that remind the listener of his early days and for the upswing in pure adrenaline fueled energy the album includes. It is the signature album of a rootsy Rock and Roll master at the top of his game.
Electric was recorded over the course of three days in the studio of Americana star/producer Buddy Miller. Nowhere is Miller’s touch more evident than on “Stony Ground.” It is an anthemic murder ballad that drives forward on Native American inspired rhythms and harmonies. Thompson is so well know for his impeccable guitar work that it is almost possible to forget how remarkable his voice can be. He lets it soar in all of its sweet and melodic beauty on “Salford Sunday.” He sounds like a softer, sweeter Vic Chesnutt on the dark and lush “My Enemy.” For the most part, however, he keeps his rock and roll voice on. “Stuck on the Treadmill” finds him snarling in all of his full throated glory. And the same can be said for his writing. While the shots taken towards Sarah Palin on “Sally B” seem a bit cheap and are a tad dated, for the most part his writing is as delicious as always. “Your friends say your antsy for something fancy,” he seethes on “Good Things Happen to Bad People,” a song about a man so very disillusioned with love that he finds signs of cheating in his wife’s happiness. Thompson saves his most tender lyrics for the saddest song, “One Small Thing In Her Favor.” “Got the kids in the car, dreams will get you just so far, the life gives you bitter pills to savor, still she kissed me once more as she gently slammed the door,” his voice quavers with ache as he sings about a man trying to convince himself he doesn’t really love the woman walking out.
It is nearly as impossible not to view Richard Thompson as an elder statesman of music as it is to imagine him taking the role seriously. At an age when many of his peers have settled into covers of classic blues and folk standards, Thompson sets his sights to creating the classics for the next three decades. Electric is an album that excites and energizes. It flawlessly fuses the best of incisive and timely lyrics with the best of classic and timeless rock and roll for and album that serves as a portrait of its era and a mission statement for future artists. It is as close to perfect as it is possible for rock and roll to get.