Richard Thompson is a great, enduring artist that for whatever reason most mainstream music listeners have never heard of. Thompson’s best album –arguably, of course – was Shoot Out the Lights, the last album Thompson recorded with his then-wife Linda Thompson. That album came out thirty years ago, and while Thompson has never recreated that album’s highs (and it’s impossible, really), his career since then has not been without highlights.
Thompson’s latest album, Electric, is one of those highlights. Like just about any Thompson album, Thompson’s guitar virtuosity is on full display. Here, unlike Thompson’s past few albums, the guitars are mostly electric. And as great as Thompson is with an acoustic, the man was born to play guitar in all its amplified glory. The album’s third track, “Stuck On the Treadmill” a great example, as Thompson does variations on the song’s main riff in between the verses of the song before throwing in a couple solos.
“My Enemy” hearkens back to Thompson’s collaborations with Linda Thompson – both in its sound and the darker subject matter – with Alison Krauss providing typically great vocals along with Thompson.
For all of the album’s electricity, Thompson still provides some more traditional-sounding numbers. “Snow Goose” is a dark folk ballad, opening with the lines “Northern winds will cut you/Northern girls will gut you/Leave you cold and empty/Like a fish on a slough.” Krauss returns to provide backing vocals on “Saving the Good Stuff for You,” which with its violin (or maybe “fiddle” is more appropriate) and acoustic guitar wouldn’t sound out of place in church on Sunday or on a gospel record – even if the subject matter wouldn’t be quite appropriate.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5