Release Date: Nov 17, 2014
Record label: Concord
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, British Folk-Rock
Though the various members of folk-rock royalty clan the Thompsons have gathered on stage together at festive shows over the years, Family marks the first time both Richard and Linda have shared billing on an album with sons Teddy and Jack, daughter Kami and grandson Zak. Also along for the ride is James Walbourne, Kami’s husband and partner in The Rails. Teddy’s original plan was to get each of his relatives to contribute two songs to the project, but the end result is much more collaborative.
It’s hard not to view this collaborative album from the extended Thompson family through the eyes of the cod psychologist, given it how tortuous their family dynamic has been – Richard and Linda Thompson chronicled their disintegrating marriage on Shoot Out the Lights in 1982. The idea came from their son Teddy, who opens the album with the title track, which meditates on being the child of famous parents, stuck “betwixt and between/ Sean Lennon, you know what I mean”. His sister Kami contributes a lovely, Teenage Fanclubesque folk rocker, Careful, but the heart of the album lies in the parents’ songs.
Having a celebrated family can be a blessing or a curse, which is something Teddy Thompson knows from experience. Teddy's father is the peerless guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson, his mother Linda Thompson is one of the best respected singers in British folk-rock, and together they cut a handful of acclaimed albums that rank with the best singer/songwriter material of the '70s and early '80s. While Teddy has established himself as an impressive talent in his own right, it's hard to escape the long shadow of his parents' legacy, and rather than avoid it, he's embraced it by producing an album in which he collaborates with Richard, Linda, his sister Kami Thompson (a member of the Rails as well as a solo artist), his half-brother Jack Thompson, and nephew Zak Hobbs.
“Sean Lennon, you know what I mean,” sings Teddy Thompson of the trials of hailing from famous musical stock. That hasn’t stopped him enlisting parents Richard and Linda – rarely heard on the same record since divorcing in 1982 – for this album, along with other assorted Thompsons, who take it in turns to supply songs. The fingers of folk devotees may hover over the skip button, but it’s an enjoyable, ramshackle collection.
Family is a union of folk-rock royalty Richard and Linda Thompson, along with younger pretenders: sons Teddy and Jack, daughter Kami and her husband James Walbourne, and grandson Zak Hobbs. The idea and ensuing catalyst for the album came from Teddy, the project’s proficient producer. Since his parents split up when he was just six, it could be tempting to view the exercise as a form of belated group therapy — a kind of “meet the folkers.” Yet this collaborative venture does not overtly rake over old coals but is essentially a celebration of all things Thompson — the sincerity, the quirks, and not least that they all sing and play rather well.
Teddy Thompson jokes in the press materials that his therapist had a “field day” with his latest album. “Family” is certainly ripe for psychoanalysis, given the Thompsons’ fraught history that’s not unlike that of their friends in the Wainwright-McGarrigle clan. For this collaborative album, Teddy produced and enlisted his divorced parents, folk-rock royalty Richard and Linda Thompson; his brother Jack; younger sister Kami; her husband, James Walbourne; and nephew Zak Hobbs.
A family reunion in every sense, Family brings together the Thompson clan – Richard and Linda, as well as the pair’s talented and proficient offspring, Teddy, Jack and Kami. It’s not the first time the family’s gathered for such an occasion; Linda’s mid-2000s solo albums, Versatile Heart and Fashionably Late, also featured contributions from the couple’s kids. However given the fact that were estranged and Richard didn’t participate, this is the first time the entire brood has gathered together for a specific series of sessions.