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Reviews: Kami Thompson, Love Lies; Richard Thompson, Live at Celtic Connections

Richard Thompson
Live at Celtic Connections
[Eagle Rock (2012)]

Kami Thompson
Love Lies
[Warner World (2012)]

I’m a sucker for all things Thompson.

Kamila Thompson seems to have inhereted the heft in her voice from both of her parents  (yes, she’s Richard and Linda’s youngest daughter), but the comparisons mostly end there. Though she might cop some Americana sounds for the album opener “Little Boy Blue,” the bulk of the music falls outside the folk rock continuum. Songs like “Stormy” get close to the angry avant pop of mid-career Fiona Apple or of PJ Harvey, regardless of what her father’s Stratocaster is doing in the background. (Her father’s guitar work is, in fact, sometimes intrusive: he steps all over her vocal lines in the verses on “Little Boy Blue.”) The album is at its best when it focuses on vocals. And with guest vocals coming from her brother Teddy, Sean Lennon, a couple of Wainwrights, and more, songs like “Never Again” and “Want You Back” venture into Fleetwood Mac territory.

There’s always a danger that the children of famous artists will follow too closely in their parents’ footsteps or rebel too strongly; Kami Thompson has found a nice balance, and the family connection is neither surprising nor obvious on the disc: It’s just a good collection of songs.

Here she is playing her very original take on George Harrison’s “Don’t Bother Me” live:

Though there has not exactly been a shortage of live DVDs from Richard Thompson, it has been a seven years, and Live at Celtic Connections is a welcome addition to any collection of the great guitarist’s work — particularly since Dream Attic was recorded on the road and this DVD gives us a chance to see the blazing guitar work on those songs. Throughout the twenty-song set, Thompson alternates between his tighter pop rock material and intense jam sessions with guitar solos stretching to seven or eight minutes. By the time we get to “Can’t Win” around the hour and a half mark, it’s hard to imagine that he can find yet another five minutes of unexplored territory on his blue Stratocaster, and yet he manages to do so. This, of course, is the reason he regularly makes lists of the greatest guitarists of all time.

Nevertheless, his purely best and most melodic songwriting in the set comes from past albums, with “Wall Of Death,” “Tear Stained Letter,” “Take Care The Road You Choose,” and “A Man In Need” closing out the night in quick succession. Thompson seems to have reserved most of his smiling for the end of the concert, too, so it seems reasonable to assume that the listener isn’t the only one who’s having more fun with this part of the program than with the angry Dream Attic material like “The Money Shuffle.”

—Jon Patton (Baltimore, MD)

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