Richard Thompson: Dream Attic
The English singer, songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson has a very tenuous connection with Okinawa, as mentioned in The Power of Okinawa book. Back in 1988 he sang and recorded a version of Shoukichi Kina’s ‘Haisai Ojisan’ on the album Live, Love, Larf & Loaf as part of the quartet French, Frith, Kaiser, Thompson. This foray into Okinawan music was a one-off curiosity never to be repeated. Thompson’s new solo album Dream Attic, however, is the latest in a very long list of recordings which date back to the late 1960s when he was a member of Fairport Convention. At that time Fairport more or less invented British folk-rock with their revolutionary Liege and Lief album on which they played traditional songs with electric instruments. After leaving the band Thompson recorded as a duo with his then wife Linda, and for the past two decades and more has been a solo artist equally at home with just his acoustic guitar or as part of an electric band.
Now in his early 60s, Thompson has been based in California for some years but the move to America seems only to have deepened his connection with the roots of his music and its inherent Englishness. The new album Dream Attic contains 13 brand new Thompson originals which he sings and plays with electric guitar together with a band which includes Pete Zorn on acoustic guitar, flute, sax, and mandolin. Unusually, all the tracks were recorded live in front of audiences at venues in Seattle, Oregon, and California. The immediacy of this approach generally pays off and if you want to know what the songs sounded like when Thompson wrote them, the deluxe edition of the album comes with a second CD of the original acoustic guitar and vocal demos of all 13 songs.
Thompson is one of the great English songwriters of the last half century and as a performer has a unique and instantly recognizable guitar style. This new album boasts several fine new songs, among them the strongly melodic ‘Big Sun Falling in the River’ and the bleakly poignant ‘A Brother Slips Away’. Meanwhile ‘Sidney Wells’ – the story of a killer and his fate – sounds like a traditional English murder ballad transferred to a very modern setting…..and the instrumental section of ‘Demons in her Dancing Shoes’ would not be out of place as accompaniment to a morris dance. Dream Attic is a good addition to Thompson’s large body of work. A big electric sound with its roots showing.