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Richard Thompson - Small Town Romance
RICHARD THOMPSON "Small Town Romance" Hannibal HNCD1419

This CD gives a "warts and all" recording of live performances of Richard Thompson in New York in 1982. Here we have Thompson solo voice and acoustic guitar playing many of the self-penned songs that have become folk club standards. The recording was first issued on vinyl and has become a much sought after item for Richard Thompson aficionados, and after several listenings I can understand why it is felt to be so important.

The record is not just a snapshot of a performer going through the motions, what we have is an opportunity to hear the bare bones of the performance. Thompson is not a tuneful vocalist but like the Bob Dylan or Neil Young there is a depth of emotion, subtlety of expression and in the end a compelling fascination in his delivery of the songs.

There are no electric pyrotechnics in his accompaniment as can be found in his rock band guise, here we have solid acoustic guitar, a framework on which to hang the song, and yet as we listen there are subtle runs and musical lines in the midst of the pick and strum.

The recording gives the listener a chance to hear the words and song construction in their most simple form and we begin to recognise just what a fine songwriter Richard Thompson is. It is easy to overlook the wry observations of Down Where The Drunkards Roll, the self mocking humour of Woman or A Man or the superb song construction of The Great Valerio when chanted out in the folk clubs.

Recorded for radio broadcast the sound quality is good but not of studio quality and is probably not a good recording for newcomers to Richard Thompson. For them I would recommend the triple sampler Watching the Dark which shows him in wider settings, many of the songs on Small Town Romance can be found there. Once they are hooked into this fascinating singer/songwriter then I would say that Small Town Romance will become essential listening.

Nick Caffrey

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This album was reviewed in Issue 26 of The Living Tradition magazine.