Lyrical and musical feast
In case anybody wondered if Richard Thompson still has it, (no pun intended), then look no further than his latest album, Still. The album is an exercise in showmanship with shifts in lyrical themes, musical styles and a closing tour de force of guitar style samples packed into a seven-minute-plus track.
At 66 years old, Thompson continues recording and playing at a high level, this time with the help of Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame in the role of producer. Coming off a highly reverential project with Mavis Staples, Tweedy has now done right by another legend, this time of the folk rock scene. The collaboration in Chicago between Thompson and Tweedy went well as evidenced not only by the quality of the tracks but by the fact the recording went down in just 9 days. Demonstrating his respect for Thompson, Tweedy said in a press release, “Richard’s been one of my favorite guitar players for a very long time.”
The album closer, “Guitar Heroes” gives Thompson the chance to demonstrate, (in case anybody didn’t know), why he is so highly regarded. The track is an ode to the trials and tribulations of being a slave to rock and to the study of guitar techniques. Each verse is an ode to players like Django Reinhardt, Chuck Berry and Les Paul with excellent interpretations of each one of their styles following the call of their name in the verse.
Of course, plenty of great music precedes this final song. Some of the numbers with nods to the Celtic roots of Fairport Convention include the intense and somewhat angry “Pony in the Stable,” “Beatnik Walking” and the gorgeous and somewhat baroque “Josephine.” Meanwhile, “All Buttoned Up” is a bouncy, tongue-in-cheek song about a frustratingly chaste woman.
Lyrically Thompson explores themes of wandering, ironically in the opening song, “She Never Could Resist a Winding Road” followed by “Beatnik Walking” given the title of the record. Meanwhile the one-two punch of “No Peace, No End” followed by “Dungeons for Eyes” could easily be interpreted as a critique of recent leadership since moved on. All in all, this latest record has plenty of musical and intellectual meditations, without being showy. It just proves what a badass Thompson continues to be.