Richard Thompson’s latest output starts off in a way you’d expect at this point. The soft acoustic guitar playing with his strong Irish vocals singing over them, it’s a familiar sound for sure but it’s the sort of familiar that pleases you like a friend you haven’t seen for a long time but yet it’s like you picked up where you left off and they’re the same person you’ve always been fond of. Except the only difference this time is that Jeff Tweedy is there, and that’s always a good thing. Jeff Tweedy (of the lovable band, Wilco) produces this album here, including some vocal and guitar work.
It’s a well-produced album and there’s some nice variety across it, even if it doesn’t stray too far away from Richard’s usual sound. The same can be said for the song writing on the record too, generally going for the storytelling format and singing about a female that may have hurt him, like Where’s Your Heart. The lyrics didn’t quite stick with me as much as I’d hoped, but rather the guitar work from both Tweedy (who is no stranger to huge, sonic driven guitar songs) and Thompson.
Long John Silver and Where’s Your Heart have great solos and the majority of the album has the kind of playing that if you’re not focusing on might mean you miss some great moments. But when these moments aren’t there, there’s not much to entice you, it all fades a little into the background. That’s not to take away from the veteran, his voice his still fantastic, but there’s not always enough there to instantly grab you.
There are some out of nowhere hooks on the album that are quite surprising when they come through, like No Peace No End, which definitely made the choice for having more folk rock tunes a good idea, but did make tracks like She Never Could Resist A Winding Road pale in comparison. Pony In The Stable (backed with female backing vocals that fit nicely) and All Buttoned Up make for great songs that really stand out on the album. They’re mixed extremely well (production-wise), which can be said for the album as a whole but Dungeons For Eyes attempts for something big on the chorus and instead it’s just uninteresting.
Perhaps the most interesting song on the album however is the closer Guitar Heroes. Making references to guitar legends and how he wants to make music like them (a little ironic considering Richard is quite the underrated guitarist himself), the song goes through multiple change ups in the instrumentation, venturing off into blues and bee bop interludes. And the melodies here are excellent, although the track may seem unstructured and a little random, it’s still one of most exciting closing songs to an album I’ve heard all year; I’m only left slightly disappointed because the album could’ve used styles and influences throughout and it may have come out better. Nevertheless, it’s still a decent album that will satisfy long-term fans and there are certainly a handful of tracks that can appeal to first time listeners who enjoy of all forms of folk.