Release Date: Sep 14, 2018
Record label: New West
When a musician is as good as Richard Thompson, he's going to stand out from his accompanists no matter who they happen to be. But one of the many pleasures of Thompson's albums from 2007's Sweet Warrior onward has been the way he's grown into the fruitful working relationship with his rhythm section of drummer Michael Jerome and bassist Taras Prodaniuk. They rarely do much to call undue attention to themselves, which is as it should be with a good rhythm section, but Jerome is a drummer who can add color, shade, and depth to a song while holding down the backbeat, and Prodaniuk defines "in the pocket," keeping the low end solid while filling out space that allows Thompson to take flight when he solos (and reminds us all that he is arguably the finest guitarist alive).
Richard Thompson penned "Rattle Within" for the new 13 Rivers, but the song's worries suggest it could just as easily have been written during the Black Plague as in our own plagued time. Over the racket of rattletrap percussion, Thompson excoriates the quackery of religious leaders, contemplates a dark self that's "living right there inside your skin," and poses this nervous question: "Who's going to save you from the rattle within?" He then launches into a jagged and ominous solo, serrated as though he were unspooling barbed wire. Thompson's playing retains a stomping folk-dance quality reminiscent of his innovations in Fairport Convention fifty years ago.
Richard Thompson is a curmudgeon. It's a style that's typified him ever since his days at the helm of Fairport Convention, through to a topsy turvy solo career (which includes the unlikely distinction of being responsible for the worst selling album in Island Records' history) and the establishment of an enigmatic presence that's set him apart from his peers in far more positive ways as well. With his austere vocals and heightened sense of sarcasm, satire and sentiment as applied by his remarkable songwriting and exceptional guitar prowess, his charmingly cranky ways remain firmly entrenched even some 50 years on.
Richard Thompson – 13 Rivers After a spot of stylistic rebalancing with the part-plugged/unplugged Jeff Tweedy-produced Still LP in 2015 and more song-cupboard cobweb cleaning with 2017's bare-boned Acoustic Classics II and Acoustic Rarities, Richard Thompson returns somewhat revitalized to his more rock-slanted modus operandi with the self-produced 13 Rivers. Ably-accompanied primarily by his latter-day bassist Taras Prodaniuk and drummer Michael Jerome, the album is a tight yet tensile affair, that shows the old dog still knows how to learn a few tricks with scholarly shrewdness. Forged under the cloud of some undisclosed personal life upheavals and amidst the fever dreams of current world affairs, this baker's dozen of songs are attacked with garrulous ensemble-driven gusto.