Teddy Thompson, Separate Ways (Verve Forecast, 2006)

Children of well-known musicians don't always have it easy when they pursue musical careers themselves. Sure, Julian Lennon's eerie vocal and facial similarities to his father opened doors for him early on, but they also made it impossible for him to escape comparisons with a man whose musical legacy was beyond his ability to approach. Teddy Thompson, the son of Richard and Linda Thompson, has a few more things working for him than Julian does. For one thing, his parents are both alive and well, and both happily contribute their talents to Teddy's sophomore effort Separate Ways. While Linda and especially Richard are regarded as legends in some circles, those circles are pretty small, and younger folk or rock fans who hear Teddy will probably not draw immediate comparisons. Teddy's smooth tenor also differs significantly from his father's deeper baritone. Still, fans of Richard Thompson whore are curious to hear Teddy's music will probably have some expectations regarding the quality of the songwriting, as I, right or wrong, did.

Most of the songs on Separate Ways, unfortunately, didn't meet my expectations. The opening song "Shine So Bright," despite being one of the album's better songs, illustrates why Teddy's lyric writing is still very much a work in progress. Teddy sings, "I want to be deathbed thin, never realize the state I'm in, walk with my head in a cloud, be followed around by crowds, I want to shine so bright, it hurts." The line shows a strong sense of sarcasm, and the same indifferent attitude towards stardom that has characterized his father's entire career, but it lacks any sort of subtlety. The bluntness gets worse on some of the other songs, particularly the ones that deal with romantic break-ups. Instead of any ironic twists or clever phrasing, Teddy offers irritatingly curt lines like "You broke my heart, you broke my heart, I know who's to blame, you're to blame," or worse, "Being happy is easy when you're dumb."

Having said that, a couple of songs on the album do work. "I Should Get Up," a catchy song about pulling yourself out of an emotional slump, is very easy to sing along with. The sad country ballad "Sorry To See Me Go" showcases Teddy's considerable vocal talents. Fans of Richard Thompson's guitar playing will be pleased with his contributions to the disc; Richard tastefully fills in the musical gaps on a handful of the songs without re-directing the spotlight away from his son. Unfortunately, these make the album's shortcomings that much more frustrating. Teddy Thompson has a good voice and a decent flair for melody, but he really needs to develop more consistency, and a much more delicate touch with his lyrics, than he shows on Separate Ways if he wishes to have a distinguished career.

Overall grade: C+

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