Richard Thompson's Still: What You Need To Know
As one of the driving creative forces behind the early success of folk-rock legends Fairport Convention and then as a solo artist, Richard Thompson has enjoyed a long and distinguished career. Respected both as a guitarist and a songwriter, Thompson's compositions have been covered and recorded by an impressive and diverse range of artists that includes Elvis Costello, Dinosaur Jr., The Pointer Sisters, David Byrne and The Futureheads, among many, many others.
He's about to release the 16th studio album he's recorded under his own name, entitled Still, which arrives in stores this week. Here's everything you need to know about it...
What's the background?
Richard Thompson has always been fairly prolific and Still will be his fourth album in as many years. His last release, 2014's Acoustic Classics, was a collection comprising acoustic versions of songs from his back catalogue, including many of the tracks he recorded as part a of husband and wife duo with his ex-wife Linda. Whereas the last album was a stripped-back affair, this time around he's recruited former Toadies drummer Michael Jerome along with regular collaborators Taras Prodaniuk and Jim Elkington to imbue Still with a much fuller, more rounded sound.
Who's producing it?
This time around Thompson approached Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, who also contributes guitars and vocals, to produce the album. “Richard's been one of my favourite guitarists for a very long time” said Tweedy on his reasons for accepting Thompson's invitation, describing working on the album as “a truly rewarding experience.” The album was recorded in its entirety at Tweedy's Chicago studio The Loft.
What does it sound like?
Thompson showcases his considerable guitar playing talents on 'Guitar Hero', but otherwise Still is a little more understated than the Buddy Miller-produced Electric. There are audible homages to acoustic guitar heroes like Bert Jansch and Django Reinhardt, both of whom have heavily influenced Thompson's style, but the focus here is on the storytelling in the songs' lyrics.
The lyrical imagery is as vivid as ever; 'All Buttoned Up' tells the story of a woman with a fear of intimacy, while tracks like 'Beatnik Walking' – one of the album's highlights – hint at a much darker side to Thompson's psyche. His vocals, though weathered and sometimes raw, are as soulful and heartfelt on Still as they've ever been.
Any special guests?
Thompson isn't averse to guest slots on his records and his 2013 album Electric featured Alison Krauss on one of its tracks, but on Still Tweedy is the only other famous name involved with the record. The rest is just Thompson and his band.
Does it deliver?
Thompson has a dedicated fan base and if you're one of those who has followed his career from Fairport Convention onwards, this record will do nothing to harm your love of a man whose career in the music industry has lasted almost five decades.
Even if you're new to Thompson's music, Still is as good a place to start as any and it feels like a summary of all his best moves condensed into one big interwoven tapestry. Any budding guitarists should take note – Thompson's subtlety often belies his incredible technical ability, but listen carefully and there's real gold to be found here.