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A wry view of life for the world-weary

A Family Affair

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Won’t Be Long Now – Linda Thompson

It seems incredible that for someone who has been on the folk scene since the mid-1960s this album is only her fourth solo offering and the first since Versatile Heart which was released six years ago. Of course, part of the reason for Linda’s sparse output is the loss of her voice due to psychogenic dysphonia brought on as part of the fall-out of her marital break-up with guitarist, Richard Thompson. This on-going condition prevents her from performing live but in the sheltered environment of the recording studio, there is little evidence that her voice has deteriorated, although it perhaps has lost some of the range it had in her prime during the fruitful and fraught collaboration with her hubby. I remember seeing Richard and Linda Thompson live in Cambridge in, I think, 1976 and you could have cut the tension between the two with a knife.

It seems both are now in a happier space and, indeed, the guitar maestro contributes a thoughtful and sensitive acoustic guitar accompaniment to the opening track, Love’s For Babies and Fools, which after a couple of listens is for me the stand-out track. Indeed, this is very much a family affair because son, Teddy, appears and co-writes two songs – Never The Bride is particularly good – and daughter, Kamila, and grandson, Zak Hobbs.

There are contributions from the great and the good from the folk world including violinist Dave Swarbrick, about whom the Daily Telegraph ran an appreciative obituary in April 1999, accordionist, John Kirkpatrick and the ubiquitous father and daughter duo, Martin and Eliza Carthy.

There are eleven songs on the album, a mix of new and traditional. The landscape is littered with lost loves, spirited drunks and lusty seafarers. As with much of the Thompson’s work there is a vein of melancholy and wistfulness running through the album. The musical backing is sparse and subdued allowing Linda’s voice to breathe and dominate proceedings.

As well as the opening track I particularly liked Linda’s version of Annie McGarrigle’s As Fast As My Feet and the solo rendition of Blue Bleezin’ Blind Drunk which to my astonishment features applause at the end and was performed live at the Bottom Line.

This album features impressive musicianship and for aficionados of the Thompson’s work doesn’t disappoint although, equally, does not push out the boundaries. A good album to snuggle up to in the winter with a bottle of wine and reflect on what has been and what might have been.

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