mon 24/06/2024

CD: Richard Thompson - 13 Rivers | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Richard Thompson - 13 Rivers

CD: Richard Thompson - 13 Rivers

RT's white-water ride down a new river of song

Rivers carry our effluents away; they water the land, burst their banks, serve as borders, and as freight routes; their names are older than the towns built around them. They carry spirits and take lives, bring fecundity, and carry themselves inexorably to the sea.

As such they are the perfect metaphor for Richard Thompson’s songcraft, and the river of song that makes up his latest set, titled 13 Rivers, is powerful if challenging, a self-produced album recorded in analog conditions over 10 days with his regular band of drummer Michael Jerome, bassist Taras Prodaniuk and guitarist Bobby Eichorn.

It’s bare, direct, full of brilliant wordplay, wit and imagery, and dark thoughts. Thompson describes the songs as “coming to me as a surprise in a dark time”, although as a listener, you can’t discern any autobiographical source, because as a songwriter Thompson is more storyteller than confessor. These songs are his subjects, not his diaries. First person, third person – it’s all part of the same unifying current on 13 Rivers’ songs addressing rage, self-doubt, endurance, fated love and wandering lust, as well as feelings of loathing and the kind of laconic contempt that fuels not only “O Cinderella”, but the bluesy “The Dog in You” and the damning “Pride”. These may not be the good things in life, but they’re the meatiest.

The music is focused, angular, clattering and sharp, honed to its bones, with Jerome’s drums to the fore. The fast-paced, white-water rush of the album’s first half sports much exceedingly subtle and excellent stringwork, even if the extended soloing gene is largely absent here. While latter-day Thompson rarely produces the kind of emotionally tender love songs he gave to Linda Thompson’s peerless voice, “My Rock, My Rope” moves towards that realm, its slow ballad structure supporting a powerful spiritual plea. “Trying” has the singer addressing a difficult lover around a spare, angular riff, while “No Matter” addresses the same kind of figure with added self-torture, flagellation and uncertainty – even if the chorus does affirm with “I believe, I believe”. Thompson’s not one for comfort and joy, that’s for sure, but 13 Rivers is freighted with musical and lyrical excellence. Fans will experience no disappointment, and on the closing paean of “Shaking the Gate”, with its delicate and beautiful handiwork, much joy.

@CummingTim : Tim Cumming's website

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