Linda Thompson

Versatile Heart

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Linda Thompson is a meticulous craftswoman, seemingly incapable of putting out music that's any less than spectacular. She follows up her spectacular comeback album, 2002's Fashionably Late, with this stunning collection of ballads, proving to all that her creative fire remains undiminished. There are a few tunes by other writers. Rufus Wainwright contributes "Beauty," a poignant tune that Thompson delivers with her understated majesty, while her reading of the Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan protest song "Day After Tomorrow" is positively heartrending. The song is written as a letter home from a young man in Iraq, praying that he'll live to see his 21st birthday; Thompson's vocal here is haunting, brimming over with raw longing and an almost fatal resignation. As good as those songs are, they're merely appetizers for the main course, eight new Thompson tunes, some written in collaboration with her son Teddy, and a new song by her daughter Kamila, "Nice Cars." On "Do Your Best for Rock 'n Roll," Linda and Teddy channel the ghost of Hank Williams, Sr. The tune suggests "Your Cheatin' Heart," but moves in its own unique direction, with Thompson's weary country vocal laying out her broken but still beating heart for all to see. It's a wrenching performance, with James Walbourne's guitar mixed to produce a blue-tinged, larger-than-life-size twang. "Give Me a Sad Song," another country weeper, co-written with Betsy Cook, uses the usual images of booze, country music, and remorse, with a quavering vocal by Thompson that wouldn't sound out of place on anything coming out of Nashville. "Blue & Gold" is written as an English folk song, using the language of fairy tales to explore the ups and downs of love. "Whiskey, Bob Copper and Me" is another new traditional-sounding British folk song, a tribute to Bob Copper, the A.P. Carter of British traditional music. It's another song of bereavement with Eliza Carthy supplying the poignant harmony vocals. Thompson's heart may be versatile, but her forte is her ability to imbue songs of remorse, loss, and frustrated desire with a soulful beauty and an implied state of grace. Every album is deeper, more sensitive, and more inspiring than the last -- and this one is no exception.

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