Marjorie Thompson

Right by Me

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Marjorie Thompson came to her recording career late. Although a guitar picker since her pre-teens, life took her on other paths -- including that of teaching biology at the university level and being a mom to seven kids -- until she was already in her forties. At that time, having been inspired for decades by the playing of Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna guitar master Jorma Kaukonen, Thompson attended a guitar camp run by the veteran for the first of several sessions and decided to devote more time to her own music. She began writing songs for the first time in her life and recorded her first album in 2003. Right by Me is her fourth, and it demonstrates that the efforts have paid off big-time: the traditional acoustic country-blues-based songs reveal a deep devotion to the blues greats of the early 20th century that manifests in an original approach, as well as a level of songcraft that artists who've been at it a much longer time would be happy to claim. Like Kaukonen, Thompson writes of matters that affect her inner self -- stories are often autobiographical or at least of universally understood sentiments -- and she delivers them in a smart, classy style characterized by intricate fingerpicking and heartfelt vocals. Thompson also chose her backing musicians well: among those bringing the songs to life here are pedal steel guitarist Buddy Cage, mainstay of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and mandolinist Barry Mitterhoff, who plays with Kaukonen and the present-day Hot Tuna. In addition to her original material, Thompson puts her personalized, old-timey stamp on the Beatles' "When I'm Sixty-Four" and Kaukonen's own "Watch the North Wind Rise," one of his most beautiful compositions, which she gives an Appalachian tint. That she manages to integrate them so seamlessly says a lot about how far her artistry has come.

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