Oh yes, just as you suspect, there is a family connection: this is the debut album of the son of Richard Thompson. Since the time he toured with his famous father, quite a few of Richard’s fans have been waiting for Teddy’s first album is his own name. And they have not waited in vain.
I must confess that my first interest in the CD was that very family connection. But, once I cleared myself from the expectations of getting a Richard Thompson Junior threading in his father’s footsteps, I discovered someone who is much more that just the son of his father. Teddy Thompson is a good singer and songwriter in his own right, with his own distinctive style.
Vocally, he sounds like a cross between Iain Matthews and Jackson Browne. Song-wise he aims for the simple but effective structures, mostly with an acoustic guitar strumming along with clear chord changes. Often there is a laid-back, slightly gloomy feeling to the songs. The only resemblance to his father is his ambition for writing about the darker sides of life and love.
And yes, the proud father is present on quite a few tracks with a fair selection of his guitar pyrotechnics. But Thompson Sr. always stays in the background. This is Teddy’s record, not his, and he is very aware of that.
The opener “Wake up” starts off with just Teddy’s voice and acoustic guitar before the full band comes in halfway through the first verse. It is one of the rockier items on the album and a strong opening that promises a lot.
“Love Her for That” is slower, starting with some lovely electric guitar and a tricky drum rhythm. The tune is almost sad thought the lyrics tell of happy relationship. “Brink of Love” is another slow song, with lots a strings on it. A little like something you would find on a Nick Drake album.
“So Easy” is lazy, almost jazzy and makes Thompson stretch his voice a little more than on the first three tracks. Chris Bruce provides some beautiful guitar licks and Rufus Wainwright, yes, another son of the famous, the background vocals. “All I See” continues the melancholic feeling of the album. It is even slower than the preceding tracks and the opening line “I miss you tonight” says it all. “All We Said” takes us back to a little heavier territory. With a little less acoustic guitar, it could have been one of those heavy metal ballads that calls for the cigarette lighters to come out.
“A Step Behind” is my favourite track on the album. Handed to us in waltz-time it gives us some of the most clever lyrics on the CD. “It is not so much that you left, it’s that you didn’t come back / It is not the pain that you felt but the obvious lack.” A haunting melody that sticks in your head.
“Missing Children” takes us back to the lazy, jazzy feeling of “So Easy.” One of my least favourites as it does not seem to go anywhere. “Thanks a Lot” is one more that starts of with a solo acoustic guitar, soon to be joined by the band. This is one of the up-tempo numbers. But then again, do not expect any roaring rock-and-roll on this album.
“Days In The Park” is another sad one starting with a brief a capella vocal, then building up with acoustic and electric guitars. A nice closer in the early Iain Matthews-vein, but wait … After a few moments of silence the riddle of “Emmylou Harris appears courtesy of” on the sleeve is solved. Up until now she has not been seen or heard, but here she is duetting with Thompson. Backed by only a couple of acoustic guitars they turn out the saddest song of the album, an old Everly Brothers song “I Wonder If I Care As Much.” Pure beauty. Their voices blend perfectly, but then again Ms. Harris always seem to blend with everyone.
You could buy this album because it is recorded by the son of Richard and Linda. But, more reasonably, you could also buy it because it is a very fine album, showing a mature, but still promising, debut. Teddy Thompson has chosen a path that will not make him a household name among millions, but the quality of his singing and song writing will enable him to build up a nice following of people who appreciates good craftsmanship in music. And forget about the inheritance. Think of him as Teddy Smith, and just enjoy his music. He is worth being considered as his own man.