Linda Thompson’s new family-backed CD is ‘Won’t Be Long Now.’
The family that whines together, stays together.
That could be the proud motto of the Thompson clan.
For two generations, the family of Linda and Richard Thompson has bonded over betrayal, poverty, war and death. Since the ’70s, the prodigiously gifted pair has reigned as the first couple of Celtic rock — a pain-loving genre if ever there was one.
Over the last decade, their son Teddy has made his own name as one of pop’s most lyrically hard-edged and melodically agile writers. In 2002 Teddy helped revive his mother’s career, co-writing gorgeous and fraught material for her after she had not recorded for nearly two decades.
Teddy comes through again on the new “Won’t Be Long Now” CD, out Tuesday. It’s Linda Thompson’s first album in six years, and features the silken voice of her daughter, Kami, and the guitar pickings of her son-in-law, James Walbourne. But the family connection that will really get fans talking about has to be “Love’s for Babies and Fools.”
It’s a final kiss-off to romance that features only Linda’s voice of weary woe matched to Richard’s finely pricked acoustic guitar. Given that Richard famously dumped Linda for another woman in the middle of their highest-profile tour — 1981’s jaunt for the classic album “Shoot Out the Lights” — the song’s scenario adds a twist-of-the-knife back story these wry stars have to relish.
Naturally, the lyrics sing with poetry: “Let better pens than mine/extol love’s joy divine/before I ruled love out/I searched every north and south.”
Linda has famously struggled with vocal problems over the years, and her voice does show slightly less dexterity than before. Yet her tone remains ravishing and the sensitivity and assurance of her delivery prove crucial in cauterizing the songs’ pain.
Subjects range from the blind terror of the seafaring life to the masochistic idealism of a woman who can’t learn from her rejections to the legacy of blood and war bequeathed from father to son.
The CD’s most positive piece, “Mr. Tams,” salutes a flimflam man whose deceit has yet to be revealed.
Despite Linda Thompson being reared in the U.K., the new CD has a strong New York connection. Much of it was recorded in Brooklyn. One song, “Paddy’s Lamentation,” first appeared in Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York.” And Linda recorded “Blue Bleezin’ Blind Drunk” at the late, lamented Bottom Line. An a capella piece about a beaten wife, “Drunk,” shows the star’s voice at its most goldenly lonely.
If that’s not morbid enough, the final track, “Won’t Be Long Now,” offers this sweet comfort to the pained narrator: At least you’ll be dead soon. And, yes, Teddy penned that one especially for mom. “What’s his point, I wonder?” Linda asks in the liner notes.
Only in this family would that point be love.
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