British folk-rocker and guitar legend Richard Thompson needs little introduction – his CV speaks for itself. He has received Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the BBC and the Americana Music Association, was named one of the Top 20 Guitarists of All Time by Rolling Stone, has seen 40 years since the release of his debut album, Henry the Human Fly, and flaunts an extensive discography. For most people, any one of those accomplishments would send us packing for an early retirement while patting ourselves on the back. But not Thompson – he’s back with a new album and tour and shows no signs of stopping.
Despite his impressive history and discography, the new album Electric marks several firsts – his first studio album with a three-piece band, the first album recorded in Nashville and the first with producer Buddy Miller.
Electric features Thompson’s three-piece band – Michael Jerome on drum and Taras Prodaniuk on bass – which he calls a “commando raid band,” ready to hop on a plane and travel to a festival or show. “So I’ve been carefully honing the old repertoire for the three-piece and I thought it would be fun to write some material for this line-up and see what happens,” he tells me over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. “It’s a folk-rock take on the classic rock trio, not so much Cream as Peter, Paul and Mary meet Cream.”
The album was recorded in musician and producer Buddy Miller’s home-studio in Nashville, Tennessee. The speedy recording led to a more rough garage sound, creating a new genre he calls folk-funk. Some of the funkier tracks on the album are ‘Sally B,’ ‘Stuck on the Treadmill’ and ‘Straight and Narrow,’ which all show off Thompson’s excellent guitar work. But the album is more than a funk record and features some beautifully constructed ballads. The best of these is the meditative penultimate track ‘The Snow Goose’ with American bluegrass and country singer Alison Krauss.
In addition to Krauss, Thompson tapped into Nashville’s wealth of musicians and is joined by a few other guests on the new album. Nashville-based English singer-songwriter Siobhan Maher Kennedy sings on several tracks including ‘Salford Sunday’ and the waltz-like ‘My Enemy,’ and the Grammy-winning bluegrass fiddler, Stuart Duncan, makes a few appearances.
But don’t let the guest appearances fool you into thinking Thompson’s gone country on us. Electric is still very much a folk-rock album, but it’s just a bit funkier than we’ve heard him before. Not Americana, but ‘Anglocana.’