Album | Richard Thompson – Ship to Shore

Richard Thompson makes music unlike anybody else in the recording industry, and he’s been doing it since the late 1960s. Jamming with Hendrix, covered by a who’s who of the recording industry, received an OBE from Queen Elizabeth. What’s left to prove? That he’s still relevant? That’s where Ship to Shore comes in. If there was ever any question, Ship to Shore makes it clear that Thompson is still a songwriter beyond compare and a guitarist second to none. 

His songs pack a punch, and right off the bat, ‘Freeze’ can shake you to your foundations as it tells the tale of a man stuck in place. One so terrified he can’t even commit suicide, “a man so paralysed by his life/ He can’t even bring himself to end it.” Rocking with abandon, drummer Michael Jerome pounds the kit for all it is worth, while bassist Taras Prodaniuk and Bobby Eichorn on guitar fill in the scene as David Mansfield adds violin to the mix. Zara Phillips adds backing vocals to a package heralding a triumphant return to action after six years away. And when Thompson sings, “a friendly breeze there might push you/ Make up your troubled mind for you” you begin to understand just how stuck on the precipice this man truly is.

Finding kernels of truth in some of the darkest material has always been Thompson trademark. ‘The Fear Never Leaves You’ exposes a soldier haunted by the bloody battles still raging in his mind. The sparse accompaniment haunts listeners as much as the jagged guitar solo. Combining quintessential Englishness with the southwestern sounds of Calexico, ‘The Day That I Give In’ is a mesmerising mix. Thompson, even at his ripe old age, finds the connective tissue that melds styles together seamlessly

The mesmerising mystery of this guitar solos trigger awe again and again, with ‘Life’s A Bloody Show’ firing off solos that fill odd angles and styles. ‘“’What’s Left To Lose’ crescendos with electric shards. Many will find ‘We Roll’ to be a career send-off. Amidst the dusty rhythm, when Thompson sings “We thank you for all your love down through the years/ We hope we brought you some joy and some tears,” many will feel that the song is a retirement dance, he’s out the door and off to some retirement home by the sea. Nothing could be further from the truth. With another album already written Thompson won’t be heading for the pasture anytime soon.

Richard Thompson has weathered the shifts of time and tides, creating an unparalleled catalog of songs. Ship To Shore is the latest example of an artist still going strong.