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Album: Linda Thompson - Proxy Music | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Linda Thompson - Proxy Music

Album: Linda Thompson - Proxy Music

Music by appointment to folk-rock royalty, from family and friends

'An album of real warmth and connection'

She has one of the most distinctive voices in folk and contemporary British music, impossible to forget once heard, and impossible to ignore. Even – or especially – as Linda Peters, singing, aptly enough, “I’ll Show You How to Sing” on a fairly obscure 1968 single with Paul McNeill.

A lot of songs have gone under the bridge since then, and Thompson’s standing as one of our great singers has not been diminished by the singer’s struggles with spasmodic dysphonia, a condition that robs her of her voice, but not her music, spirit, wit, love or humour, all of which are in abundance in this new set of songs, sung by other people – friends, family, and more friends.

Thus Proxy Music. The first line of the first song says it clearly: “I had a voice clear and true...” Sung by her daughter Kami, “Solitary Traveller” with its wurlitzer-style backing, has a melody that wouldn’t be out of step with the florid pop Linda Peters sang in the late 1960s.

After the 1980s solo set One Clear Moment, in the noughties she returned with three treasured albums, beginning with 2002’s Fashionably Late, for which I had the fortune of seeing her sing on stage for the first time in years at the Lyric Hammersmith. In 2007, Versatile Heart followed, with Won’t Be Long Now in 2013. But since then there has been a longer musical silence, and while it’s a loss that she cannot sing these excellent and often witty songs herself, the proxy side of the set works brilliantly, with family and friends stepping in and stepping up each time. Music by appointment to one of the majesties of music...

On “Nothing at All” Martha Wainwright’s ripeness of voice offers a world warmed by promise, care and connection. “There will be sparkling wine, dinner at half past nine, my foolish hopes abound, catch you the next time around, and we can do all these things… or nothing at all”. That chill wind of aloneness and absence blowing through the strings of connection.

Her brother Rufus voices a very funny number dressed in 1930s musical attire and crooning about a May to September relationship with a much, much younger man in “Darling This Will Never Do”, while the rigs of time, whose machinery operates on us all, is reflected upon by the fine-voiced English singer Ren Harvieu on the sharp, witty and well-lived-in “I Used to Be So Pretty”.

A highlight is John Grant singing the emotional, touch-sensitive “John Grant” to a classic slice of Seventies folk rock, complete with what sounds like an authentically vintage synth solo and some fine guitar. Kami Thompson returns with her husband James Walbourne as The Rails on “Mudlark”, which has a sound palette reminiscent of the Richard and Linda Seventies albums, while it’s lovely to hear the Unthank sisters on “Three Shaky Ships”, addressing her daughters and sons imparting hard-won wisdom. It’s a compelling, poetic song, and one, it transpires, that her ex Richard had a hand in writing to its conclusion, too. Which adds a warm grace note to this album of real warmth and connection. It’s be a special night when these family and friends congregate at the Cadogan Hall on 19 July to bring Proxy Music from chrysalis stage to full flight under the stage lights.

@CummingTim

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