Richard Thompson - Ship To Shore - New Marbled Yellow 2LP

Richard Thompson - Ship To Shore - New Marbled Yellow 2LP

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Format: New Yellow 2LP Label: New West Records Released: 31/05/2024

yellow marbled vinyl

signed copy

“To be moving is better than to be standing still,” Richard Thompson says, and Richard Thompson should know. The influential singer-songwriter and virtuosic guitarist has been on a singular musical journey for over a half century, from his days in the ‘60s as a pioneer of British folk rock with Fairport Convention, to his seminal ‘70s duo work with Linda Thompson, to the exploratory, deeply emotional music of the solo career that has been his primary concern ever since.

In 2018 Thompson released his 19th solo album, the critically-acclaimed 13 Rivers, and now, five years later, he has followed it up with his latest communication, Ship To Shore. The time taken between these efforts is something like an eternity for the prolific artist, but there was a reason: “Covid kind of halted everything for two-and-a-half years,” he explains. But once Thompson began writing again, new songs came in a burst of inspiration.

“Freeze,” the leadoff track on Ship To Shore, is also the first of the new songs Thompson composed. And it’s classic RT, with a bounding rhythm – “a strange cross between Celtic and African,” he says – punctuated by nimble, curlicue guitar licks and dark (at times, darkly humorous) lyrics, in this case of a man so paralyzed by his life that he can’t even bring himself to end it. Hesitating on a ledge, Thompson sings, “A friendly breeze there might push you / Make up your troubled mind for you.”

It only gets darker from there. Specifically, to “The Fear Never Leaves You,” in which a soldier returned from battle attempts, unsuccessfully, to find respite from the bloody images that clog his mind. The musical backdrop, meanwhile, is smooth and supple, all pulsing toms, warm keys, gently-plucked guitar notes and hushed background vocals – an intentional juxtaposition. “I like the idea of having a seductive surface where the listener gets sucked in by a fairly pleasant melody,” Thompson explains. “But then, there are hidden sharks in the water.”

if you’re looking for some of that patented Thompson guitar dazzle? Look pretty much anywhere on Ship To Shore. But maybe linger just a bit on “Maybe,” a sharp, snappy ditty that sees our protagonist losing his mind over the girl of his dreams... or nightmares. As the song reaches its fervid climax, Thompson’s guitar goes as haywire as the poor guy’s brain, spitting hot licks, playful note bursts and madcap phrases across the sonic spectrum.