Latin Conference & Awards

Thompson Smiles Through Adversity On 'Kit Bag'

Excerpted from the magazine for

For his new CD, "The Old Kit Bag," veteran troubadour Richard Thompson has taken a sidestep away from his signature sound. "It's basically a trio recording," he says. In addition to his own revered guitar work, Thompson contributed accordion, dulcimer, mandolin, and harmonium to the set's lean arrangements.

His "fairly minimal" backup was longtime accompanist Danny Thompson on double bass and drummer Michael Jerome, with Jerome and Judith Owen adding backup vocals.

The album's title is derived from "Pack Up Your Troubles," a popular English World War I song that also provides the disc's general mood of "smiling through adversity," Thompson says.

He extends that theme specifically to the lyrics of the album's last song, "Happy Days and Auld Lang Syne": "A woman's husband or boyfriend leaves in the middle of a party, as she wears a smile as a mask to hide the disintegration within."

Meanwhile, Thompson is genuinely smiling over his new label affiliation. After a decade with Capitol Records, he has moved to Cooking Vinyl/SpinArt. (His final CD for Capitol was 1999's "Mock Tudor.")

"It's nice to feel that there's some kind of partnership -- as opposed to being a 'sharecropper,' as Courtney Love says," Thompson notes. "I've had a great time on major labels, but they're less and less able to market the way they used to-and that's always the point of them, really. And recording deals are increasingly archaic."

Thompson describes his Cooking Vinyl/SpinArt deal as a "one album at a time" situation and a profit-sharing partnership. It is part of a joint venture between the U.K.-based Cooking Vinyl and the U.S. indie SpinArt. The former label is handling Thompson's recording for the world outside North America, while SpinArt issued "The Old Kit Bag" in the States on May 6.

SpinArt is also offering a limited-edition version of the album that includes a bonus CD with two exclusive tracks from Thompson's "1,000 Years of Music" project -- a series of 2002 concerts during which the artist performed songs spanning the second millennium. Thompson plans to release a compilation of cuts from those concerts via his Web site. The bonus CD will also include video from a BBC documentary on the artist.

Excerpted from the May 17, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Premium Services section.

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