10 Songs, 42 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Better late than never indeed. The queen of British folk returned after a 17-year recording hiatus, her warm, weary alto recovered from a disorder that literally stole her voice. The album starts with a surprise: former husband Richard plays guitar and sings on the chorus of the deceptively cheery folk-rocker “Dear Mary.” The moment is low-key, especially considering this is the woman who once bloodied her ex’s forehead with a microphone. Five of the songs were written with son Teddy, whose guitar playing and backing vocals are featured throughout, notably on the achingly lovely harmonies of Lal Waterson’s “Evona Darling.” (Daughter Kamila also joins in for a few tracks, and other well-known guests include Kate Rusby, Rufus Wainwright, even Van Dyke Parks.) Thompson's spare, somber songs are brand new, but they sound centuries old, like Childe ballards just unearthed. “Miss Murray” reveals a spinster’s secrets; “On the Banks of the Clyde” finds a prostitute longing for home; and “Weary Life” plays like a music-hall version of the Carter Family’s “Single Girl.” Only on the stunning closing number does a more personal note intrude: “Here’s to the man that we thought was dead/ Singing like he’s got a gun to his head/ Hanging on sweet notes and a thread/ Dear old man of mine.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

Better late than never indeed. The queen of British folk returned after a 17-year recording hiatus, her warm, weary alto recovered from a disorder that literally stole her voice. The album starts with a surprise: former husband Richard plays guitar and sings on the chorus of the deceptively cheery folk-rocker “Dear Mary.” The moment is low-key, especially considering this is the woman who once bloodied her ex’s forehead with a microphone. Five of the songs were written with son Teddy, whose guitar playing and backing vocals are featured throughout, notably on the achingly lovely harmonies of Lal Waterson’s “Evona Darling.” (Daughter Kamila also joins in for a few tracks, and other well-known guests include Kate Rusby, Rufus Wainwright, even Van Dyke Parks.) Thompson's spare, somber songs are brand new, but they sound centuries old, like Childe ballards just unearthed. “Miss Murray” reveals a spinster’s secrets; “On the Banks of the Clyde” finds a prostitute longing for home; and “Weary Life” plays like a music-hall version of the Carter Family’s “Single Girl.” Only on the stunning closing number does a more personal note intrude: “Here’s to the man that we thought was dead/ Singing like he’s got a gun to his head/ Hanging on sweet notes and a thread/ Dear old man of mine.”

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