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Linda Thompson's "Versatile Heart" Is A Gem!
on September 26, 2007
Linda Thompson's extraordinary "Versatile Heart" is exactly what its title implies - it's versatile and full of heart. This opus finds Thompson moving a little further a field from her comeback album of five years ago (has it been that long?) "Fashionably Late." The risks taken here pay off primarily due to Thompson's haunting, plaintive and somewhat melancholy voice and because of a sense of vision and determination that she displays.
Her son, Teddy Thompson, plays a huge role in this recording and its obvious, as it was on "Fashionably Late", that he is her number one fan!
Every track here is a gem. The title song, which opens and closes with a wonderful horn band, is a catchy piece with some rather cutting remarks ("Stay on the road you two faced fool, that way we'll never come to blows") about someone who uses their versatile heart to the detriment of another. Jenni Muldaur lends a lovely harmony on this track. With a voice sounding like a cross between her mother, Maria Muldaur, and Dolly Parton she pushes the song up a notch by being a nice contrast to Thompson's vocals.
Thompson takes a winning stab at country and honky-tonk with "Do Your Best For Rock And Roll" and "Give Me A Sad Song" - tracks that sound very much like they could have come right out of Nashville. She also moves into a cabaret/chanteuse like mode for Rufus Wainwright's "Beauty" and she successfully treads into the indie folk arena with her daughter Kamila Thompson's "Nice Cars" - probably the most unusual track on the CD.
And then there's "Katy Cruel" and "Blue and Gold" - the first an old song and the second a new song that sounds like an old song - which finds Thompson on familiar ground. Blue and Gold's chorus has an especially subtle hook to it that I could listen to over and over, and is what gives it it's more modern edge.
Lastly, there are the ballads, and no one sings a sad song like Linda Thompson. "The Way I Love You", with Martha Wainwright singing background vocals, and the devastating "Go Home" are the kinds of performances that make Linda Thompson such a treasure. And its her stark performance of Tom Waits' and Kathleen Brennan's "The Day After Tomorrow" that is probably the pinnacle of the album. Recorded live with her daughter Kamila, if any listener has a dry eye after hearing that performance, well, then they don't have much of a soul. (It's interesting how wonderfully some women artists have taken on Waits' material and made truly distinguished performances of it. Valerie Carter's "Whistle Down The Wind", Carol Noonan's "Tom Traubert's Blues" and Christine Collister's "Dirt In The Ground" come to mind.)
I would be amiss not to mention the very English "Whiskey, Bob Copper, and Me" (an ode of sorts to the legendary Copper Family), penned by Linda and featuring Martin & Eliza Carthy and Susan McKeown, as well as the lovely instrumental "bookends" written by Teddy titled "Stay Bright".
It's very sweet to see how many of Teddy and Kamila's friends (most children of Linda's musical contemporaries from the early seventies) turn up on this recording. It's truly a testament to the endearing quality of Linda Thompson. So, pick yourself up a copy of "Versatile Heart" and discover that endearing quality, because it's a rare find indeed!