Richard Thompson The Old Kit Bag Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

He may be working on the West Coast these days and his muse may still reside in Middle...

Chris Jones 2003

Now entering his 31st year as a solo artist, and still garnering the same old 'Britain's best kept secret/cult' remarks in the press -but why? To everyone in the know (and this is probably a lot more people than you'd think) RT is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the greatest British post-war songwriters. Not only this, he is the master of a guitar style that is as influential and as distinctive as that of, say, Hank Marvin or Steve Howe. And not just in the folk idiom either - without Thompson there would be no Tom Verlaine for starters...Now he returns with another text ripped from the pages of suffering and heartache, but more importantly, the guitar is aflame once more.

This album marks a far more stripped down approach than of late. Backed only by Danny Thompson's fleet-footed bass and solid drums courtesy of Michael Jerome, Thompson shows he's not lost the ability to evoke the bleaker side of the human condition. While the album's title implies the necessary resilience needed to forget one's woes and carry on with the game of life, the songs themselves speak of a life filled with lost loves (''I've Got No Right To Have It All''), bitter regrets (''A Love You Can't Survive'') and people of untrustworthy motives (''Pearly Jim'', ''I'll Tag Along'').

Inexplicably split into two halves: 'The Haunted Keepsake' and 'The Pilgrim's Fancy', this collection of ''Unguents, fig leaves and tourniquets for the soul'' may come with a standard 'olde worlde' folk sleeve but is full of Thompson's skill in taking a contemporary subject matter and placing it within a story-telling tradition. The aforementioned ''A Love You Can't Survive'' is a standard tale of misfortune and twisted fate, but concerns a coke smuggler and the first half's songs are peppered with some of the spikiest six-string mayhem for a good while. Yet songs such as ''Jealous Words'' could come from any of the last two thousand years.

It's this timeless quality that allows Thompson to float above the crowd and stake his claim as a true British classic. He may be working on the West Coast these days and his muse may still reside in Middle England, but Richard Thompson remains a world-beater.

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