Front Parlour Ballads by Richard Thompson | 711297472523 | CD | Barnes & Noble
Front Parlour Ballads

Front Parlour Ballads

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by Richard Thompson
     
 

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Although he forged his reputation on the British folk scene some decades back, it's been a long while -- 24 years, in fact -- since Richard Thompson recorded an entirely acoustic solo album, a streak that ends with this elegant, wide-ranging disc. Front Parlour Ballads draws a good deal of its character from its surroundings; as the title suggests, it was

Overview

Although he forged his reputation on the British folk scene some decades back, it's been a long while -- 24 years, in fact -- since Richard Thompson recorded an entirely acoustic solo album, a streak that ends with this elegant, wide-ranging disc. Front Parlour Ballads draws a good deal of its character from its surroundings; as the title suggests, it was largely captured in Thompson's own living room, without accompaniment except for two tracks featuring percussionist Debra Dobkin. Her homey banging adds a loose, lubricated tone to "Let It Blow," a wry tale of quickie marriages and hung-over realizations. While most of the disc is decidedly more low-key, Thompson doesn't lapse into maudlin musing. Instead, he infuses songs like "Mutton Street" and "Row Boys Row" -- a wizened tale of music-biz life set to a woozy, half-time sea chantey melody -- with an appropriately medieval blend of whimsy and worry, which meld beautifully on the six strings of his guitar. His character studies are, as ever, both precise and poignant, whether they're expressing affection (the delicately picked, giddily worded "Miss Patsy") or disillusionment (the angular, dissolute "A Solitary Life"). But the disc's real calling card is an intimacy that's akin to being granted a command performance by one of the era's greatest singer-songwriters.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Mark Deming
As a live performer, Richard Thompson has become nearly as well known for his dazzling solo acoustic performances as he has for his blazing full-band electric sets, but he hasn't displayed nearly as much enthusiasm for the acoustic guitar in the studio, usually limiting himself to one or two non-electric tunes on each of his albums (though 1996's You? Me? Us? features one disc of electric performances and another of acoustic material). Front Parlour Ballads marks Thompson's first full studio album of acoustic-oriented material since 1981's Strict Tempo!, and unlike that album, which was dominated by traditional material, this set features a bakers' dozen Thompson songs. Thompson also recorded and produced this set all by his lonesome in his home studio, and while the man has always shown good taste in collaborators, Front Parlour Ballads reveals how bright he can shine on his own. With the possible exception of the jaunty opener "Let It Blow" and the bitter "A Solitary Life," these elegantly constructed songs sound as if they would gain no aural advantage through bigger and louder arrangements, and the spare production allows the beauty of the melodies to shine through unfettered. While there's less flash in Thompson's guitar work on Front Parlour Ballads than on many of his albums, this restraint makes for a very powerful beauty of its own, especially in the counterpoint of the overdubbed guitars, and Thompson's vocals here are as effective as anything he's ever recorded as he allows his Britishness to run free in his lyrics. Front Parlor Ballads is built from modest stuff, but the finished product is as strong as anything Thompson has recorded in the past ten years; while this album supposedly began as an experiment as Thompson tested out some new recording gear, the results make it clear he shouldn't be afraid to spend a bit more time there, as this is a low-key triumph.

Product Details

Release Date:
08/09/2005
Label:
Cooking Vinyl
UPC:
0711297472523
catalogNumber:
4725

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Front Parlour Ballads 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The man has done it again. This is just an excellent album. Yes it's accoustic but Richard adopts the "less is more" principal and does it majestically. "A solitary life" might be one of his best songs full stop. Who else could have come up with the line "Dull as the pewter sky over Northwest eleven". Keep your so called "stars" - there is no finer singer/songwriter out there right now. Add that to guitar playing that is magnificent (again) and you have Richard Thompson. Get this album and play it and play it.