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Richard Thompson - Dream Attic

  by Lisa Torem

published: 13 / 9 / 2010

Richard Thompson - Dream Attic
Label: Proper Records
Format: CD


Brooding and compelling live album from folk veteran, Richard Thompson

Known for being a singer, guitarist, former Fairport Convention musician and composer of three comprehensive songbooks, Richard Thompson has had a folk career that has spanned 40 years. His last studio album, 2007’s 'Sweet Warrior' explored “combat”, generating the Iraq war-inspired ‘Dad’s Gonna Kill Me’. In 2009, Shout Factory released ‘Walking on a Wire: 1968-2009' which chronicled his remarkable repertoire. Thompson recently served serve as Artistic Director of the 17th Meltdown Festival. Former curators included David Bowie and Patti Smith. He also will soon engage in a national US tour, But a previous performance at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco has enabled the artist to record a live album called ‘Dream Attic’. The album is produced by Thompson and Simon Tassano and he is joined on stage by Pete Zorn (guitars, flute, sax, mandolin), Michael Jerome (drums), Taras Prodaniuk (bass) and Joel Zifkin (violin and mandolin). The thirteen track project is brooding and illustrious. The opening track, ‘The Money Shuffle’ is described this way by Thompson: “Dedicated to our good friends on Wall Street who did such a fine job lately…It’s just a mild satire.” The homage is wildly inventive; shifting tempos and showing-off Thompson’s natural ear for rhythmic and image-filled language. The melody lines are initially reproduced by brass and later improvised by Zorn’s classy embellishments. Middle-eastern scales ooze like serpents from a marketplace merchant’s basket. Thompson exclaims “My God, the market’s in a free fall” in his distinctive burr and the energy rises verse to verse. ‘Among the Gorse, Among the Grey’ begins with a blur of orchestral instruments. Vocals slowly build and soon this brittle, but aching voice is united with a heart-rending fiddle. “The elders gathered round” is one reference that acts as thematic glue. “When I’m walking in a sea of molasses, every step I take…” is one line from the heavy anthem, ‘Haul Me Up’. Best described as Rockabilly meets Cash in a bar room brawl, Thompson pleas feverishly, often preaching lines like: “Now I’m fighting this disease has got me…” A jingly mash of instruments echo his angst. The fascinating imagery continues. “Spin the wheel with sand” on ‘Burning Man’ is one example. ‘Here Comes Geordie’ is a traditional murder ballad given a contemporary veneer, but still keeping stark narrative in place. “She’s a kind of tease that you can’t refuse/Bedroom eyes and demons in her dancing shoes,” is one of the strongest lines on the album. Remarks about “stylish rags and ripped-up wedding gowns” further paint the character study of ‘Demons in Her Dancing Shoes.’ The haunting, poetic and uber operatic, ‘Crimescene’ is white-knuckle inducing, too. “Did she just accuse me/Did she just refuse me?” is the thrust of ‘Big Sun Falling in the River’. The theme of bewildered rejection continues in ‘Stumble On.’ This stunning ballad is an example of epic songwriting and a truly sensitive performance. The traditional ‘Sidney Wells’ closely recalls the rebellious timbre of Ian Anderson. The gritty narrative about buried remains features soaring violin, too. Throughout ‘Dream Attic’ touches of singer-songwriters Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot and Harry Chapin fade in and out. A deviation, as this track is definitely more Gospel/Americana tinged than the rest, is the tearful ‘A Brother Slips Away’ which Thompson dedicates to lost friends. “Tea was flowing/Dice was rolling/We were twenty/Not much more.” Thompson sings, before masterfully summarising the saga by singing, “I reached out my hand too late.” ‘Bad Again’ is the most Jim Croce of the lot and the brilliantly sturdy, quintessential ballad, ‘If Love Whispers Your Name’ has a spine-tingling beauty and purity. ‘Dream Attic’ has magnificent moments. Richard Thompson’s instrumental work equals that of a celestial angel with a harp, but his vocals tap into the deepest and darkest vestiges of the human soul.

Track Listing:-
1 The Money Shuffle
2 Among the Gorse, Among the Grey
3 Haul Me Up
4 Burning Man
5 Here Comes Geordie
6 Demons in Her Dancing Shoes
7 Crimescene
8 Big Sun Falling in the River
9 Stumble On
10 Sidney Wells
11 A Brother Slips Away
12 Bad Again
13 If Love Whispers Your Name
14 The Money Shuffle (Acoustic Demo Version)
15 Among the Gorse, Among the Grey (Acoustic Demo Version)
16 Haul Me Up (Acoustic Demo Version)
17 Burning Man (Acoustic Demo Version)
18 Here Comes Geordie (Acoustic Demo Version)
19 Demons in Her Dancing Shoes (Acoustic Demo Version)
20 Crimescene (Acoustic Demo Version)
21 Big Sun Falling in the River (Acoustic Demo Version)
22 Stumble On (Acoustic Demo Version)
23 Sidney Wells (Acoustic Demo Version)
24 A Brother Slips Away (Acoustic Demo Version)
25 Bad Again (Acoustic Demo Version)
26 If Love Whispers Your Name (Acoustic Demo Version)

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