Won't Be Long Now
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Won't Be Long Now
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2013 album from the British Folk-Rock legend. Linda Thompson returns with the outstanding release, Won't Be Long Now. Comprised of a mix of traditional and original songs -- including songs co-written by Linda with Ron Sexsmith, John Doyle and her son Teddy Thompson -- Won't Be Long Now follows Fashionably Late (2002) and Versatile Heart (2007) showing that her voice endures as a devastatingly beautiful instrument.
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This recording is a collaboration with family and friends. Linda's ex-husband Richard plays guitar on the first track, "Love's For Babies and Fools," which she composed for Rufus Wainwright, whose late mother Kate McGarrigle was a close friend. Irish guitarist and co-songwriter John Doyle performs on "Never Put to Sea, Boys" as well as Teddy Thompson's "Father Son Ballad," while Amy Helm, daughter of the legendary Levon Helm, sings on the lovely "If I Were a Bluebird," for which Ron Sexsmith wrote the tune. All three of Linda's children, Kami, Muna, and Teddy, sing with her on "As Fast As My Feet," written by Anna McGarrigle, Kate's sister and Rufus' aunt.
Teddy duets with his mother on the traditional tune "Paddy's Lamentation" from the film "Gangs of New York." He either composes or plays on several other songs, including "Never The Bride," to which Jenni Muldaur, daughter of folk and blues greats Geoff and Maria Muldaur, contributes background vocals. Longtime folk scene stalwarts Dave Swarbrick and Martin Carthy join in on a trio of delightful melodies, with Martin's daughter Eliza on the third, a Teddy Thompson number entitled "Mr. Tams." Perhaps most moving is Linda's solo voice, recorded live, covering the traditional "Blue Bleezin' Blind Drunk." The album closes with American banjo player Tony Trischka joining Linda, Amy, and Teddy on the title track, another one of Teddy's originals.
Like Linda Thompson's best work -- and pretty must everything she touches is classic -- this is wonderfully wry, beautifully bittersweet music that touches the heart.
The songs, with guests and timing:
1. Love's For Babies and Fools (with Richard Thompson) 3:40
2. Never Put To Sea, Boys (with John Doyle) 3:19
3. If I Were a Bluebird (with Amy Helm & Sam Amidon) 6:50
4. As Fast As My Feet (with Teddy, Kami & Muna Thompson) 3:54
5. Father Son Ballad (with John Doyle & Dave Swarbrick) 3:38
6. Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience (with Martin Carthy) 3:29
7. Mr. Tams (with Susan McKeown, Kami Thompson, Dave Swarbrick, Martin & Eliza Carthy) 3:43
8. Paddy's Lamentation (with Teddy Thompson) 3:11
9. Never The Bride (with Teddy Thompson, Jenni Muldaur, Susan McKeown & Kami Thompson) 5:01
10. Blue Bleezin' Blind Drunk (solo) 2:12
11. Won't Be Long Now (with Teddy Thompson, Amy Helm & Tony Trischka) 2:37
What has always set Linda Thompson apart from many other singers is her ability to convey emotion with her stark, blunt and mostly unadorned voice. There is no histrionic singing here- there doesn't have to be. With any song sung by Linda Thompson, one doesn't usually "get "the emotional power of her singing upfront. Listening to her is a kind of organic process that has to sink in. Often the impact of her delivery or interpretation of a song isn't fully realized until the piece has concluded. Then the full power of what's been heard sort of hits one up-side the head in a rather profound way. One is left with an understanding of what gravitas is. That's not to say that Thompson's singing is disengaging by any means, because quite the opposite is true. One always senses full engagement in a Linda Thompson performance. I don't think she's capable of singing something that she isn't fully involved with - emotionally or vocally.
"Won't Be Long Now" is a more sparse recording instrumentally than her previous solo albums and there's more of a return to a traditional British atmosphere. Yet ,with only a couple of exceptions, the songs here are all newly written. The less background accompaniment seems to give Thompson more freedom in her singing. It's nowhere more obvious than in the opening track "Love's For Babies And Fools" where she's simply joined by her ex, Richard Thompson on acoustic guitar. (It's also one of the best tracks in my humble opinion.) And there's a live unaccompanied performance of "Blue Bleezin' Blind Drunk" which may leave one a bit shocked for its graphic description of spousal abuse.
Besides RT, there's plenty of other musical royalty here - both British and American. British stalwarts such as Martin Carthy, his daughter Eliza Carthy, Susan McKeown, Dave Swarbrick and John Doyle join the fray. Meanwhile the names from the American shores are a crop of younger musicians, some who who have received their musical chops from their legendary parents, such as Amy Helm (daughter of Levon Helm) and Jenni Muldaur (daughter of Geoff and Maria Muldaur.) There's contribution from the talented Sam Amidon, Tony Trischka and Glen Patscha. And the most important participants are Linda's own children Teddy, Kami and Muna Thompson and grandson Zak Hobbs. Linda's family is the foundation that she's built her "comeback" career on.
The order of songs is well paced. Just before things seem too dire, we get a jaunty version of Anna McGarrigle and Chaim Tannenbaum's "Fast As My Little Feet" sung by the whole Thompson family. Later we're lifted up by the jolly "Mr. Tams." The two longest songs, "If I were a Bluebird" (co-written with Ron Sexsmith) with lovely harmony from Amy Helm and "Never The Bride" are the songs which anchor the recording, while Teddy Thompson's "It Won't Be Long Now" is a rather swift closing. The song lyrically leaves one to come to their own conclusion as to what "won`t be long now."
While Scorsese may have thought Linda Thompson had gone to the great beyond, this recording tells us that she indeed has not! Rather, she's delivered one of the best recordings of the year.