Just how lost Richard Thompson
was under Mitchell Froom
and Tchad Blake
's direction during the '90s is made clear by Mock Tudor
, the brilliant sequel to the botched You? Me? Us?
Producers/engineers Tom Rothrock
and Rob Schnapf
keep the production clean and direct, allowing the songs to breathe and letting Thompson
play guitar. That decision alone would have made Mock Tudor
a satisfying listen, but what elevates it into the first rank of his albums is, naturally, the songs themselves. Thompson
structured the album as a portrait of suburbia, tackling a different subject with each song. It's not all about desperation, although there certainly is a lot of that there. Instead, Thompson
is at the top of his form, offering subtle shadings in his lyrics and remarkably catchy, memorable melodies throughout the album. As a matter of fact, it's a bit of a tour de force, opening with the rollicking "Cooksferry Queen" and closing with its polar opposite, the hushed, intimate black comedy of "Hope You Like the New Me." Between those two songs, Thompson
covers all sorts of emotional textures, resulting in his most affecting effort in years. Since even on his uneven '90s efforts he demonstrated that he still was in full grasp of his talents, it can't be said that Mock Tudor
is a comeback, but it's certainly the best album he's made in over a decade.