Teddy Thompson is 30 but with the mussed-up hair and the innocence of an eighteen-year-old. A Brit, which always suggests a certain facility with language. And a legacy --- he's the son of legendary guitarist Richard Thompson and the singer Linda Thompson.
'Separate Ways,' his second CD, starts like this: "I want to be a huge star who hangs out in hotel bars/ I want to wake up at noon in somebody else's room/ I want to shine so bright it hurts...." Amusing. We've all been there. But what is this? "I wanna be death bed thin." And "I wanna be high strung/Make people wonder/what they've done." Hey, these dreams are not so nice.
That's when you realize that 'Separate Ways' is a time bomb. [To buy the CD from Amazon, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.]
The music is rich and varied and loaded with star power --- Dad plays guitar on five cuts, one song is a duet with Mom, and backup singers include Rufus and Martha Wainwright.
If you didn't listen to the words, you would say this is one happy record, tinged with occasional solemnity. But the words! Only gradually, as you play the CD over and over (and you cannot help but play it over and over --- it's hypnotic), you find the common thread: the difficulty of relationships, especially when one of the participants is troubled.
"Depression looms --- I'm such a miserable fool,“ the second song begins. A song about an affair is called "I Wish It Was Over." In another, he moans: "I saw you in the bar last night/Taking drinks from every guy/Foolish me for thinking we had something." No wonder the narrator of one song finds it "hard to believe that I would be somebody’s idea of love.”
And yet, I repeat, this CD is far from gloomy. It's exciting --- you hear echoes of Joan Armatrading and Tracy Chapman in the voice and phrasing, reminders of some great band you can't quite name in the music. And then, in the title song, you are confronted with a masterpiece. Brushes on the drum. A delicate acoustic guitar figure. And then these broken-hearted lyrics:
Come rolling into town unaware
Of the power that you have over me
And what am I to do
With hello how are you
Nothing’s ever said that should be
And I don’t care about you
If you don’t care about me
We can go our separate ways
If you want to
The ties of love are strong
But they can be undone
And we’ll go our separate ways
If you want to
I’m turning into me, not you
I can change my mind not my blood
And not all who love are blind
Some of us are just too kind
We forgive too much
And never speak our minds
There's more like that. Much more. It's an open vein of a song. Not to hear it --- not to have it as a reminder of those moments when your life was like that --- is to go through your days slightly blinkered.
I say: Rip off those blinkers. Dare to feel everything that Teddy Thompson serves up on a bed of seductive melodies. Because you are, here, in the thrall of the Authentic