By John Hughes
Richard Thompson’s new CD The Old Kit Bag advertises that it contains “unguents, fig leaves and tourniquets,” presumably for the listener’s soul. It actually delivers better than that; emollients for melancholy, curatives for the blues. It delivers nothing less than the pure healing joy of delectable music.
Thompson has been breathing life into the decidedly uncool British folk tradition for 35 years, almost always to tremendous effect. This may be his best outing in all that time. He achieves this by stripping his sound down to the basics: his confident singing, in a voice which sounds as smokey and gladdening as a McEwan’s Scottish Ale tastes, and his guitar playing, which is spectacular.
The songs are all richly detailed and thick with sound, and the backup singing of Judith Owen is a complementary highlight, but the guitar playing carries the day from beginning to end. At times it is so good that it hurts to listen. Richard Thompson, at his peak here, creates arresting beauty for your heart.