Richard Thompson, Dream Attic (Shout Factory, 2010)
After more than forty years in the music business, Richard Thompson shows no signs of slowing down. With his new CD Dream Attic, Thompson takes the unusual approach of recording a full album of new songs live in concert. The album succeeds due to some strong musicianship, most notably and predictably from Thompson himself.
Thompson's supporting cast consists of long-time collaborator Pete Zorn on sax, mandolin, and acoustic guitar, Joel Zifkin on electric violin, Tarascan Prodianuk on bass, and Michael Jerome on drums. For Dream Attic, Thompson sticks to the electric guitar. People who are particular fans of his acoustic work might not like that so much, but there are some great solos here on songs like "Haul Me Up," "Crimescene," and the closing song "If Love Whispers Your Name." The rest of the band is top notch too, although I think there's something unclean about the sound of the electric violin that you really notice on the quieter songs.
Thompson's lyrics find him covering subjects both familiar and unfamiliar, with his usual wit and biting sarcasm. "The Money Shuffle," which opens the album, pokes fun at the bankers who've made a mess of things lately. " Here at Warbrook and Jones it's all tradition, we never pimp and we don't hustle. If you'll just bend over a little, I think you'll feel my financial muscle. Spread it wide, wide as you can, to get the full benefit of my plan." "Burning Man" recounts a brief encounter at the notoriously outside-the-box festival in the Nevada desert. " Here Comes Geordie" satirizes an excessively vain and falsely idealistic rock star. "Sidney Wells," set to a frenetic slip jig, tells the tale of a notorious serial killer. On "A Brother Slips Away," Thompson pays tribute to a pair of departed friends. Forty-two years after penning "Meet on the Ledge," Fairport Convention's signature song, it's both poignant and telling that Thompson still needs to cope with loss in his music. "Bad Again" is a humorous look at a man who just can't seem to stay on his wife's good side.
People familiar with Richard Thompson know they can expect a certain standard of quality from his albums, and Dream Attic is certainly no exception. I've said in the past that an average album by his standards is a safe bet to make my year-end top ten list, and this album is a bit better than average.
Overall grade: A
reviewed by Scott