Album of the Month – RICHARD THOMPSON “Electric”

My four readers know that I am a big RT fan.  Between checking Beesweb (his website) frequently to being a little too into his gear (how about his new Headstrong Lil King amp?!!), my family may feel that I take it a bit too far.  But aside from lurking around our downtown pedestrian shopping district on the days he’s been in town for shows, I have stopped short of stalking.  I just get RT and am just continuously impressed with his 40 year career and the high quality of work throughout.  I try to turn people on to his songwriting or his phenomenal playing at any opportunity.  Taking someone to see RT always creates a convert, and taking a guitar player to see him usually results in a crisis in confidence, even causing them to wonder if they even play the same instrument.

For a while there it was an exciting event when RT put out a band album.  You knew you were in for at least a few great electric guitar solos sprinkled among the great songwriting.  But the past three releases have all been band releases and I was hoping for something a little different this time out.   Upon first listen, I realized “Electric” is a very different RT album.  The songs on “Electric” could have easily been on the previous “Dream Attic” (2010) or “Sweet Warrior” (2007) but this album is different in one huge way:  BUDDY MILLER produced it and plays on it.

RT can always let it rip when playing live, acoustic or electric.  (The last album, “Dream Attic”, was a live recording of new songs that captured the ripping quite well).  On “Electric” MILLER, a great guitar player himself, extracts some true grit from RT’s guitar playing in a studio setting.  As is usually the case with a RT album, there are a few standout songs to add to his catalog of gems.   Recording as a trio (MICHAEL JEROME on drums and TARAS PRODANIUK on bass) makes each part more urgent and upfront.  Miller captures a raw live sound, even when a few guests (including MILLER, fiddle player STUART DUNCAN and vocalists SIOBHAN MAHER KENNEDY and ALISON KRAUSS) show up.  I read once that RT used to be frustrated with the album recording process and that playing the songs live really brought out the songs true character.  What MILLER and THOMPSON have done here will help bridge that gap for these songs.

One final thought on working with BUDDY MILLER.  RT has a very devout fan base, convinced of his Dylanesque stature as a songwriter and willing to go to battle to defend his guitar playing against any comers.  He has found new fans recently with his Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award.  (He is actually touring this spring with EMMYLOU HARRIS and RODNEY CROWELL, sure to attract even more converts).   Therefore, as someone who has tried to spread the word for years, I find working with MILLER a brilliant move.   MILLER recently rejuvinated ROBERT PLANT‘s music.  He is a sympathetic producer who, like T BONE BURNETT and JOE HENRY, can bring out the best of great artists while moving them into new territory.  RT is always looking to move ahead and with “Electric” he will move ahead and likely gain a bunch of  new fans.

 

Salford Sunday

 

Good things Happen To Bad People

 

The Snow Goose

 

Will You Dance Charlie Boy?”  (from the bonus disc).  Is that a BUDDY MILLER solo on a RT tune?

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