As the son of legendary folk-rockers Richard and Linda Thompson, there’s no doubting that Teddy Thompson has some talented genes. His parents produced some of the finest folk-rock of the ’70s, and while it’s unfair to expect Thompson to live up to those standards, his self-titled debut in 2001 did hint at great things to come.
Like that debut album, Separate Ways is full of beautifully crafted songs, smoothly produced and beautifully sung. Thompson may not have inherited his father’s legendary skills with a guitar, but for anyone who likes the wistful melodies of Crowded House, there’ll be plenty to enjoy here.
Like his father, Thompson is a dab hand at writing some extraordinarily bitter lyrics. Separate Ways contains some surprisingly vitriolic words, which balance the sweetness of the music perfectly. The standout I Wish It Was Over is a perfect case in point: “I don’t even like you, or can’t you tell/whenever I’m sober, I treat you like hell” bemoans Thompson over a lovely rolling melody.
These acerbic break-up songs are scattered throughout the album. The atmospheric title track recalls Chris Isaak at his very best and features a startlingly good vocal from Thompson – the moment where he sings “I’m giving up on you” is enough to break even the hardest of hearts.
As befits a man with almost honourary Wainwright status (he opened for Martha Wainwright on her tour last year and appeared on the McGarrigle Christmas Hour album), both Wainwright siblings appear, adding subtle backing vocals to the yearning Shine So Bright and Everybody Move It. Thompson’s father Richard also makes a few appearances, lending guitar to several tracks (sounding uncannily like Mark Knopfler on I Should Get Up).
For anybody who grows weary with the emphasis on lovelorn ballads, Thompson’s not afraid to rock out a bit, as demonstrated by the excellent That’s Enough Out Of You and the driving You Made It. Yet it can’t be denied that he’s at his best when he’s at his more fragile – No Way To Be, featuring the atmospheric tones of The Band‘s Garth Hudson on organ, is just heartbreaking (“you think too much of me, it gives me shivers of responsibility”).
Reminiscent at times of his close friend Rufus Wainwright‘s early albums, this is introspective music but never becomes dreary thanks to the edge that Thompson possesses. He may not hit James Blunt style career highs (his songs are far too subtle for that), but for quality songwriting, you can do a lot worse than look in the direction of Teddy Thompson.