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Richard Thompson: The Old Kit Bag


Richard Thompson

Album: The Old Kit Bag
Label: spinART

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Forty years ago, it wouldn't have taken much time to design the packaging for Richard Thompson's new album. In a darkened club, Thompson would have posed on a stool beneath a spotlight shining on a face haloed in cigarette smoke. Maybe there would have been a sultry habitué looking up at him, but Thompson would have avoided her gaze, directing all his attention to the guitar in his arms. They could have called it Richard After Hours, and, even though it would have been recorded in a studio, the title still would have captured the long-dark-night vibe of The Old Kit Bag. The singer-songwriter's first new album since 1999's Mock Tudor, The Old Kit Bag features Thompson and a lean backing band skulking through a set of songs that bring his mordant streak front and center. "If it was destiny, why am I over here and she's over there?" Thompson asks in response to the title sentiment of "She Said It Was Destiny," one of the album's few up-tempo tracks, and one of its best. Elsewhere, Thompson pays less mind to pop-song niceties, letting songs trail off into the understated feats of instrumental prowess that make him such a hypnotic live performer. It doesn't always have the same effect here, however, and as the disc turns down one shadowy corner of the soul after another, it's hard not to wish that the witty, romantic, storytelling Thompson would show up to give the other guy a break, at least for a song or two. Still, Thompson does darkness as well as anyone, and even when the album-closing "Happy Days And Auld Lang Syne" suggests that songs can only go so far in healing a broken heart, he leaves little doubt that he'll keep trying to sing his way back into the light.