THE RICHARD THOMPSON ELECTRIC TRIO play Massey Hall with Emmylou Harris on March 22. See listing. Rating: NNNN
Regularly swinging between acoustic and electric guitar albums, Richard Thompson opts for the latter on his newest, a vigorous 11-song collection that keeps the lyrics and melodies straightforward, allowing the complexity and uniqueness of his guitar-playing to burst through.
Also unfussy are the production and arrangements, so when Siobhan Maher Kennedy lends lilting harmony vocals to Thompson's burlier lead ones on five of the tracks, it's hugely effective. Bluegrass star Alison Krauss, meanwhile, adds hers to stirring, wintry ballad The Snow Goose.
Mostly, though, this is the English folk veteran's (and former member of Fairport Convention) show. He moves through many moods - frustration, wistful bitterness, lusty longing - while the songwriting stays utterly sturdy. A proggy guitar lick forms the foundation for stompy Stuck On The Treadmill, while rhythmically fascinating Sally B peaks with a righteous solo.
And if you haven't come for the six-string antics, you'll find plenty to love in the singalong melodies and down-to-earth storytelling.
Top track: Stuck On The Treadmill