Uncut - p.985 stars out of 5
- "Sombre, witty, timeless, nostalgic and utterly English, all of Thompson's sterling qualities as a songwriter seem to swell at once on this album."
Dirty Linen - p.57
"[A]nother coruscating and glittering prize....Hooks, hammers, and high jinx abound..."
Mojo (Publisher) - p.964 stars out of 5
- "He's at his most sardonic...[and] most elegiac....With fluid acoustic guitar playing throughout..."
Paste (magazine) - "The best material here is classic Thompson. He breaks out his electric guitar for some note-bending genius in 'My Soul, My Soul.'"
Personnel: Richard Thompson (various instruments); Debra Dobkin (percussion).
Audio Mixer: Simon Tassano.
Recording information: Trellis Sound, Pacific Palisades, CA.
Photographer: Ron Slenzak.
The title FRONT PARLOUR BALLADS is an appropriate one for this album. In sharp contrast to many of Richard Thompson's latter-day releases, which feature full-bore pop-informed production, often courtesy of Mitchell Froom, this is a mostly acoustic affair that finds Thompson getting back to his folk roots a bit. Other than sparse percussion, the master guitarist plays everything himself here, which generally amounts to not much more than acoustic and electric guitars and a bit of mandolin.
Thompson's pen is as sharp as ever, with literate, carefully crafted lyrics riding atop gorgeous, elegant melodies. Emancipation from pop production also seems to have inspired him to reach back to pre-Tin Pan Alley early-20th-Century modes of songwriting; a number of the tracks here wouldn't sound of place amid the work of Stephen Foster. Some of the more outre compositions lean strongly toward Brecht-Weill artsong territory, broadening the stylistic vistas even further. FRONT PARLOUR BALLADS may not brim with catchy, upbeat hookfests, but it's full of finely wrought material from a bona fide auteur.