10:22am

Tue October 22, 2013
Music Reviews

It's A Family Affair On Linda Thompson's 'Won't Be Long Now'

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 1:58 pm

Linda Thompson is probably best known for the albums she recorded with her husband Richard Thompson in the '70s and early '80s. They divorced, and Thompson has maintained a sporadic solo career. Her new album is a family affair, featuring some accompaniment by her ex-husband, and some songs written with her son, the singer-songwriter Teddy Thompson.

"It Won't Be Long Now" ends Won't Be Long Now, but it can stand as a kind of explanation — a manifesto, were this assiduously modest woman inclined to such things — of the state of mind she's in throughout this album. It's very much the song of a performer in her mid-60s, deciding that there's no time or sense in holding anything back. And so she offers playful, unique songs such as "Mr. Tams," a tip of her hat to her friend, the actor-musician John Tams, in a melody that sounds like an old English folk song.

Throughout Won't Be Long, Thompson's voice is both strong and delicate. The album favors simple arrangements that showcase Linda's precise yet fluid phrasing. You can hear a fine example of this on the swirlingly beautiful song that commences this collection, an original called "Love's for Babies and Fools." In her liner notes, Thompson says she wrote it for Rufus Wainwright — one of Linda's close friends was his mother, Kate McGarrigle. Oh, and Linda's ex-husband Richard plays acoustic guitar on this. "Love's for Babies and Fools" has a lovely, funny, bittersweet quality.

It's one thing to invite your family to join in in recording an album. It's another level of happy generosity when Thompson puts her three children, Teddy, Kami and Muna, singing in harmony at the start of Anna McGarrigle's "As Fast My Feet." Then she lets Kami continue to sing the lead, with Linda relegating herself to backup vocals. Mother's pride and a good result all around.

There are many times here when Won't Be Long Now achieves a kind of instant timelessness. It sounds like a collection of songs that could have been sung a hundred years ago, or written and recorded just a few weeks ago. Given how infrequently Linda Thompson records, we should feel all the more lucky she's decided to let loose with these songs of love's fate and no regrets.

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Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Linda Thompson is probably best-known for the albums she recorded with her husband, Richard Thompson, in the '70s and early '80s. They divorced, and Thompson has maintained a sporadic solo career. Her new album is a family affair, featuring some accompaniment by her ex-husband, and some songs written with her son, the singer-songwriter Teddy Thompson. The album is called "Won't Be Long Now," and our rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT WON'T BE LONG NOW")

LINDA THOMPSON: (Singing) Here goes everything. No more lies. I'm too cool for everything. I think I'd better live before I die. It won't be long now, long now. It will not be long now.

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: That song ends Linda Thompson's new album, but it can stand as a kind of explanation - a manifesto, were this assiduously modest woman inclined to such things - of the state of mind she's in throughout this album, "Won't Be Long Now."

It's very much the song of a performer in her mid-60s, deciding that there's no time or sense in holding anything back. And so she offers playful, unique songs such as "Mr. Tams," a tip of her hat to her friend, the actor-musician John Tams, in a melody that sounds like an old English folk song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MR. TAMS")

THOMPSON: (Singing) Raise your glasses, lads and lasses, here comes Mr. Tams. What's your pleasure? It's now or never. Here comes Mr. Tams. Mr. Tams (unintelligible) , Mr. Tams (unintelligible) land and home.

Throughout "Won't Be Long Now," Thompson's voice is both strong and delicate. The album favors simple arrangements that showcase Linda's precise, yet fluid phrasing. You can hear a fine example of this on the swirlingly beautiful song that commences this collection, an original called "Love's for Babies and Fools."

TUCKER: In her liner notes, Thompson says she wrote it for Rufus Wainwright. One of Linda's close friends was his mother, Kate McGarrigle. Oh, and Linda's ex-husband Richard plays acoustic guitar on this. "Love's for Babies and Fools" has a lovely, funny, bittersweet quality.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE'S FOR BABIES AND FOOLS")

THOMPSON: (Singing) My father is a traveler. He has a cuckold's luck. My mother is a queen, but her hands are tied with blood. I have a brother in the graveyard. My sister has the blues. I care only for myself. Love's for babies and fools. Let better pens than mine extol the joys of love divine. Before I rule love out, I searched every north and south. I learned to fight...

TUCKER: It's one thing to invite your family to join in in recording an album. It's another level of happy generosity when Linda puts her three children - Teddy, Kami and Muna - singing in harmony at the start of this song, Anna McGarrigle's "As Fast My Feet." Then she lets Kami continue to sing the lead, with Linda relegating herself to backup vocals - mother's pride and a good result all around.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AS FAST MY FEET")

TEDDY, KAMI, MUNA THOMPSON: (Singing) As fast my little feet can carry me. As fast my little wings can fly. As fast as automobile can ferry me, as fast as that thing can drive. The sum of rivet and aluminum banking in the setting sun, shining like a silver star.

KAMI THOMPSON: (Singing) But the weatherman says it's all clear sailing. The skies are blue from here on in. It's under the gun, my troubles are pawned, and the ticket is gone with the wind. I know my way. I know my home. Can't you hear my heart sing? I'm moving all my skill, skin and bone. Can't you hear my heart sing?

TUCKER: There are many times here when "Won't Be Long Now" achieves a kind of instant timelessness. It sounds like a collection of songs that could have been sung a hundred years ago, or written and recorded just a few weeks ago. Given how infrequently Linda Thompson records, we should feel all the more lucky she's decided to let loose with these songs of love's fate and no regrets.

GROSS: Ken Tucker reviewed Linda Thompson's new album "Won't Be Long Now." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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