Folk guitar hero Richard Thompson takes us to his Dream Attic
Richard Thompson, one of the most distinguished guitarists and songwriters of our time, returns with Dream Attic, a magnificent collection of 13 new songs, due out August 30th on Proper Records. Penned during a short and inspired burst of creative outpouring, Thompson captured the awesome energy of his live show by recording the album in front of an audience. “I don’t think musicians playing on their own are particularly interesting, it’s only when they play in front of an audience that something interesting happens,” Thompson said in an interview at the show. The songs were performed during a West Coast tour in February of this year, and the bulk of the performances that made the album come from three shows at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.
A special limited edition two-disc set containing a second disc of all 13 demos and a double-vinyl edition will also be released by Proper on August 30th.
Dream Attic was produced by Thompson and long-time cohort Simon Tassano, and they vividly captured the inspired interaction of the players. The musicians appearing on the album with Thompson are Pete Zorn (guitars, flute, sax, mandolin), Michael Jerome (drums), Taras Prodaniuk (bass), and Joel Zifkin (violin, mandolin). “The thing about recording live is that you lose accuracy but you gain energy; you lose choices but you gain immediacy,” Thompson says about his decision to work in a live setting. But at the same time, the accuracy is marvellously maintained thanks to the elevated musicianship, frequently leading to extended passages of eruptive forcefulness topped by one after another of Thompson’s jaw-dropping solo forays.
To preserve the freshness of the experience, the players went through minimal preparation before embarking on the eight-date mini-tour. “We learned how to play the songs as we went,” says Thompson. And that was precisely how the bandleader wanted it. “It’s good to be comfortable up to a point,” he says. “What you want ideally is to be comfortable and challenged.” On several levels, Thompson notes, these 2010 shows felt not terribly different from Fairport’s very first tour of the States in 1970, which followed the exit of Sandy Denny. “That particular incarnation of Fairport was a very musical, well rehearsed and tight band,” Thompson recalls.
Thompson’s last studio album, 2007’s critically acclaimed Sweet Warrior also produced by Thompson and Tassano and also released by Proper. It reflected on themes of combat, both in love and war, and featured the provocative and vivid evocation of the Iraq War, “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me.”