In a valiant quest to stop himself from going stale, Richard Thompson has been seeking a little outside help of late. 2013’s Electric was produced by Buddy Miller in the latter’s Nashville studio and was a stripped-to-basics affair. This follow-up retains that album’s core trio and finds Jeff Tweedy at the helm for a sprightly bunch of songs recorded in just over a week at the Wilco man’s lair in Chicago.
It’s a smart move that’s clearly paid off, Thompson’s nimble folk-rock stylings enhanced by subtle shifts of atmosphere and the discreet use of Tweedy’s box of effects.
The muted, off-centre Broken Doll is a case in point, as is the airy blues groove of All Buttoned Up. The latter, about a frustrated gent with a less than frolicsome other half, finds Thompson in unusually playful mood. As does mini-epic Guitar Heroes, a formative slice of autobiography that sees him mimic Les Paul, James Burton and Hank Marvin.
However, the best moments here find Thompson more restrained, particularly the sinuous, fingerpicked beauty of Beatnik Walking and the rueful, all-acoustic Josephine./o:p