Following up from his first two albums Teddy Thompson and Separate Ways showcased his formidable songwriting skills, Up Front & Down Low focuses on Thompson's abilities as an interpreter of outside material. The collection finds him delivering personalized reworkings of a memorable assortment of songs drawn from America's rich country music tradition, all delivered with a level of commitment and musical imagination that consistently cuts to the emotional heart of the material. Six tracks feature distinctive string arrangements by legendary English arranger Robert Kirby, renowned for his groundbreaking work with Nick Drake, while "My Blue Tears" features strings arranged by frequent Thompson cohort Rufus Wainwright. Throughout Up Front & Down Low, the songs are supported by artful, evocative arrangements that often diverge from the material's original country milieu.
Yes, Teddy Thompson's parents are renowned folkies Richard and Linda Thompson. And, sure, he's spent the past few years touring the world with his good friend Rufus Wainwright, who recently wrote a song about their inimitable relationship called "Nobody's off the Hook." But it's Thompson's rich, twangy voice that deserves the spotlight. After turning out two thoroughly underappreciated albums of original material--it would be pushing it to even call them cult favorites--the lovelorn singer-songwriter takes on a dozen classic country tunes on Up Front and Down Low
. It's a good fit, the bitter sentiments the inform his own work paired with the sterling melodies of Ernest Tubb's "Walking the Floor Over You" and Elvis Presley's "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone." Thompson gives each of the tunes a masterful makeover, polishing them up with an all-star cast of players that includes Iris DeMent, Tift Merritt, and Marc Ribot. Wainwright offers string his own "Down Low" into the mix without breaking the mood. It's the kind of stuff that could represent a breakthrough moment, as long as nobody gets distracted by the fact that he was born and raised in a Sufi commune. --Aidin Vaziri