Luna Kafé e-zine  Luna Kafé record review
coverpic flag England - Full Moon 232 - 07/31/15

Richard Thompson
Still
Fantasy Records/Proper Records

Most of the songs of Still sound alarmingly familiar. They're up the same street of folk, folk-rock and rock as several of Richard's best offerings from his huge back-catalogue as a solo artist or in collaboration with his ex-wife Lina or other artists. Most of the lyrics deal with unhappy relationships. Sometimes with a black-humoured twinkle in the eye, also a Richard Thompson trademark. So do we need yet another album like this? The answer is an obvious, loud and clear YES! We can never have too much of one of rock's most distinguished guitar players, song-smiths and vocalist!

Richard explains about the recording on his home-page: '"By this point, I've done about forty albums on my own. I know how to make records, I know the process. But I also fall into my own patterns and habits." To disrupt these potentially stifling habits, Thompson enlisted Wilco's Jeff Tweedy as producer. "It turned out," Thompson adds, acknowledging the risk involved, "to be really good idea. Jeff is musically very sympathetic. Although some of his contributions are probably rather subtle to the listener's ear, they were really interesting and his suggestions were always very pertinent."'

The album was recorded at Wilco's studio The Loft in Chicago in nine days by Richard's core trio of himself (guitar, vocals), Taras Prodaniuk (bass) and Michael Jerome (drums) augmented by guest musicians Jeff (keyboards, guitar and vocals), Jim Elkington (guitar), Siobhan Kennedy, Liam and Sima Cunningham (all the three latter backing vocals). Most of the guests stem from Jeff's side band Tweedy. To me the production doesn't sound that different compared to other productions by our man in recent years. It might be a bit sparser arranged than most other Thompson "band" albums, which is really fine by me. That way Richard's songs, exquisite guitar playing and sincere vocals shine even brighter. And with some subtle and exquisite keyboard fills now and again by Jeff.

The twelve songs of Still might be divided into solid electric rock-numbers, sad and/or beautiful ballads and a few "others". To me the folk ballads work best, most of them about females that life hasn't fared well with, mostly due to malfunctioning relationships. The ones on Still don't include any humor at all, they're just sad. "Broken Doll" is probably the saddest of them all, quiet and haunting with some wonderful electric guitar picking. 'All the tears in the world, Won't mend a Broken Doll'. "Josephine" sounds like an English folk song from another century, slightly modernised. So fragile and beautiful! The opening "She Never Could Resist A Winding Road" is another sad and haunting folk goodie about she who 'never could stay any place too long'. About the same theme as in Richard's maybe greatest ballad of all, "Beeswing", that was re-recorded for his Acoustic Classics album last year. And there's the virtuoso guitar playing of "Where's Your Heart?" that underlines the melancholy so well.

Of the rockers I fancy the misanthropic "No Peace No End" the most, particularly due to the relieving melodic chorus, 'No hope, no friend, no peace no end'... But the more American flavoured "Patty Don't You Put Me Down" isn't far behind. There's a couple of mid-tempo rocking offerings that work really well, too. Lyrically the dilemma of "Dungeons For Eyes" is the most interesting. Let's bring in Richard to explain again: 'That's a song about meeting someone who undoubtedly either killed people themselves or ordered people killed and now, some years down the road, they're respected politicians. Are they a terrorist or a freedom fighter? It all depends on which way the political dice fall. I met someone who fits that description. I was supposed to walk up and shake his hand, and it was a real dilemma for me. In the end, I couldn't do it.'

He's smiling at me
The man with the blood on his hands
The man with the snakes in his shoes
Am I supposed to love him?
He's smiling at me
The hero who chained up the dogs
Mephistopheles shorn of his tail
Am I supposed to love him?
Am I supposed to shake his hand?

Souls whisper to me
Souls torn from bodies
Souls lost and wandering
Smile that smile
But eyes don't lie
It's dark in there, and bloody
Dungeons for eyes

He's got that smell
The musty old smell of a priest
The damp and mold of neglect
The smell of fresh earth dug over
But how we forgive
Old rivalries half-forgot
We smile as best as we can
But I can't let it go
But I can't let it go
I can't forgive you, I can't forgive me

Souls whisper to me
Souls torn from bodies
Souls lost and wandering
Smile that smile
But eyes don't lie
It's dark in there, and bloody
Dungeons for eyes
Dungeons for eyes

From the "others" category we have to mention the quick, merry, funny and folky "All Buttoned Up", about the horny man who's 'got a girl - best girl in the world, But she won't give me a taste of it'. The only humorous relationship song this time around. And there's the quick and playful "Pony In The Stable" that almost seems to stem from medieval times. Here Richard once again demonstrates his acoustic guitar abilities. Stunning! And there's "Guitar Heroes" at the end of the album that everyone will pick out first time they hear the album. About Richard growing up in the early 1960s and being obsessed with playing his guitar the same way as his heroes, to his friends', teachers', girlfriend's and parents' despair. He don't have time for anything else, because: 'My guitar's like a woman and you know I've got to treat her right, I've got to practice all night and day, I've got to play the way my heroes play'.

In the song he learns how to play like Django Reinhardt, Les Paul, Chuck Berry, James Burton and The Shadows and fills in a guitar solo taken from songs by each of them, played spit-image, in between each verse. But in the last verse he admits:
'Now I stand on stage and I do my stuff
And maybe it's good, but it's never good enough
To tell you the truth, I always hid it -
I still don't know how my heroes did it.'

Before he ends the seven and a half minutes song by improvising his own guitar solo, the most blistering of them all.

To sum up, Still is filled with twelve great songs played impeccably and the production is as good as it gets when it comes to Richard Thompson playing with a band behind him. Once again it seems he has come up with one of his very best albums in his entire 50 years long career. I said about the same about his previous studio album of new songs, Electric in 2013... The Deluxe CD version of the album includes an EP called Variations with five more new songs. I haven't heard them yet. Need to!

Copyright © 2015 JP e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Richard Thompson articles/reviews: Acoustic Classics, Cologne, Germany 29.05.2000, Dream Attic (Deluxe Edition), Electric.

If you wish to print this review, we have a printer friendly version.

We also have 570 other articles/reviews of artists from England in our archive:

© 2015 Luna Kafé