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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Record Routine: Family matters on Teddy Thompson's latest effort

“Sean Lennon, you know what I mean/ Born to the manor, never quite clamoring free/ It’s family” Teddy Thompson sings on the first track of collaborative Thompson album Family. Overly hyperbolic comparisons aside, Teddy has some pretty big shoes to fill in the folk music industry. His father, Richard Thompson, is considered one of the best acoustic guitarists of his generation and is a renowned composer across many genres, while his mother, Linda, is a respected folk singer (the two toured together for ten years before the end of their professional and romantic partnership). The album briefly reunites the two legends, along with other musical geniuses of the Thompson family (such as Teddy’s siblings Kami and Jack, as well as his nephew Zak), for a family affair of epic folk music proportions.

The album is a diverse display of playful, bitter and heartfelt tunes that narrate the story of a family separated by heartbreak but inevitably anchored by love. On the opening track “Family,” Teddy Thompson shows equal parts idolization and resentment toward his outrageously talented and successful parents. He hands the mic over to dad on “One Life at a Time,” an upbeat country crooner about freedom, individualism and toxic relationships.

Youngest sibling Kami, solo artist (who ironically opened for Sean Lennon’s tour) and lead singer of The Rails, follows with the catchy “Careful,” one of the lighter tunes on the album. Teddy joked with The Wall Street Journal about Kami’s contribution to the album, stating “‘The album became something of a family songwriting contest,’ Teddy Thompson says by email. ‘When Kami’s songs came in, my heart sunk just a little. I knew that she had won. ‘Careful’ is a catchy pop song with a typically Thompson twist.’”

Linda’s first addition on Family is a sweet, traditional folk song “Bonny Boys”—serving as an open letter to her sons. She gives them advice on being good men and finding love the right way, “When you play fair the field is always level/ Don’t go with jezebels, they’ll lead you straight to hell/ Find the girl whose heart is not for sale.” The song is a perfect ode to a mother’s love and will make any man feel 16 again, going off to his first prom.

The rest of Family follows this family-member-trade-off fashion. “Root So Bitter” is a bluegrass track with impressive fingerpicking and honest lyrics. “At The Feet Of The Emperor” is a ponderous instrumental that goes about three minutes too long. “Right” is an anger-driven rockabilly toe-tapper. “Perhaps We Can Sleep” is an exhausted ballad with a beautiful piano line. “That’s Enough” is a Gaelic style chant against difficult times, and “I Long For Lonely” is a sad, pretty duet that ends the album simply and refreshingly.

Overall, the album is a great portrayal of the dynamics of a modern-day family. Differences are celebrated, hearts are broken, nothing is ever perfect and though it’s not always easy, it’s always better to remember where you came from and give thanks to those who made you who you are today.

Rating: B+

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