Album review: Richard Thompson's 'Dream Attic'
As one of the preeminent singers and songwriters to emerge from Great Britain’s folk-rock scene of the 1960s, Richard Thompson is one of the very few still as acutely interested in what he’ll be doing tomorrow as what he did yesteryear.
For his latest album, Thompson has aimed to inject a batch of new songs with the energy and spontaneity of live performance, a goal he achieves convincingly. He’s accompanied by woodwind ace Pete Zorn, electric violinist Joel Zifkin, bassist Taras Prodaniuk and drummer Michael Jerome, who performed with him for a string of West Coast shows earlier this year at which these songs were recorded.
Thompson employs a variety of writing approaches to his subject material, which includes corporate greed ("The Money Shuffle"), hollow egoism ("Here Comes Geordie"), unrequited love ("Big Sun Falling in the River") and new awareness born of regret ("If Love Whispers Your Name").
He’s blatantly furious at financial-world types who prey on unsuspecting clients in "The Money Shuffle," which is built on a dance-ready Arabic-Celtic drone riff. Subtle it’s not, nor as emotionally rich nor spiritually engaging as the modern-day myth-making he spins in "Among the Gorse, Among the Grey."
In "Crimescene" and "Sidney Wells," he paints chilling portraits of love gone wrong, both cinematic in scope thanks to his skilled pairing of provocative imagery with evocative music reflecting the compositional and instrumental skill he put to such great use in his stunning score for Werner Herzog’s 2005 documentary "Grizzly Man" and which over the last four decades has given him the reputation of a guitarist’s guitarist.
Most of the dreams in "Dream Attic" are more like nightmares -- but those are often the most revealing, if enigmatic, messages the subconscious chooses to send our way.
-- Randy Lewis
Three stars (Out of four)