Linda Thompson

Record Review

Phases and Stages

Linda Thompson

Fashionably Late (Rounder)

Folk music fans are rejoicing at the re-emergence of Linda Thompson. Fashionably Late, her first set of new recordings in 17 years, proves the maxim never say never. When the British folk music songbird quit the music scene in 1985, it was in response to her divorce from songwriter/guitarist Richard Thompson, as well as to a rare anxiety-based syndrome, hysterical dysphonia, a severe type of stage fright. Time has apparently healed her. Thompson's welcome return not only features her ex-husband -- he plays and sings on the set opening "Dear Mary" -- but its admirable honesty and unswerving beauty proves that she's retained her ability as a vocalist to enthrall us. Her main collaborator on Fashionably Late is her son, Teddy Thompson, a gifted and respected musician/songwriter in his own right, who contributes his own songs and acts as a co-writer on six of the disc's 10 songs. When mother and son sing a duet on "Evona Darling," it's a near perfect melding of their voices on the old Waterson's chestnut. Elsewhere, the two welcome the likes of Rufus Wainwright, Kate Rusby, Eliza Carthy, and Van Dyke Parks, all of whom bring their special magic to tunes that are traditional folk based, yet retain an edge that belies their simple trappings. Especially moving is "Paint and Powder Beauty," where with just her voice, an acoustic guitar, and a small string section, Thompson evokes a Forties-era theatrical piece, and "Weary Life," a bit of Brit-folk whimsy with a razor sharp message. Fashionably Late, yes, but better late than never.

*** .5

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