Dusted Reviews

Linda Thompson - Versatile Heart

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Linda Thompson

Album: Versatile Heart

Label: Rounder

Review date: Sep. 28, 2007

Linda Thompson spent the ’70s recording a brilliant run of albums with former husband Richard Thompson, but her solo career got sidetracked after album No. 1 by a condition called spasmodic dysphonia. The causes are complex, but basically she’d open her mouth and nothing would come out.

While I wouldn’t wish such a thing on anyone, in a way it might have been for the best; at age 59, Thompson’s voice sounds fantastic, free of erosion and supple as ever. But now she can apply it to songs with an interpretive wisdom enriched by decades spent living rather than worrying about the petty shit that goes along with making records and playing gigs.

Thompson’s voice is a marvelously expressive instrument, equally at home delivering words melodies that reach back to the days when homes and pubs were lit by fire and coal, gracing a loping, fiddle-decorated Nashville groove, or rocking like it was Memphis, 1955; she even shines in a duet with the regretfully ubiquitous Antony (the record’s only wrong step, and one that could easily be fixed by mixing him out) on a typically florid art song by Rufus Wainright.

Graced with such a timeless voice, Thompson wisely makes no effort to be contemporary, but neither does this record feel stuck in the past. Rather, she does what each well-chosen song needs. Kathleen Brennan and Tom Waits’ “Day After Tomorrow” and her own “Go Home” are stripped down to just voice and acoustic guitar; for “Katie Cruel,” she adds some percussion whose galloping pace ensures that this version won’t crowd Bert Jansch’s or Karen Dalton’s. The title song, co-written (like most of the album) with one of her kids, opens with a Salvation Army horn section, but spends the rest of its run-time flying away from it like an uncaged bird.

Family and old friends come and go throughout the record; children Teddy and Kamila sing and play, and their old playmates from the Wainright clan chip in. Eliza Carthy adds organette to the splendidly titled “Whisky, Bob Copper, and Me,” while her father Martin contributes some fine acoustic picking. The record is framed by contrasting versions of the instrumental “Stay Bright”; the first is a pensive acoustic guitar solo, the last a chamber piece orchestrated by Robert Kirby, who also did the honors for Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter.

By Bill Meyer

Read More

View all articles by Bill Meyer

Find out more about Rounder

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.