Richard Thompson – 13 Rivers

Album Review | Proper | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 5/5

If the young songwriter of the early 1970s was concerned about what might be at the end of the rainbow, then it stands to reason that the fully mature songsmith of forty-odd years on would be concerning himself with the ‘rattle within’. The life cycle isn’t over yet by any means, though an artist of Thompson’s standing would perhaps be leaning on the periphery fence looking inward at a life well lived at this point. The recent Thompson has been hugging his acoustic guitar rather a lot, whilst revamping his past glories, but on 13 Rivers, the guitarist once again brandishes his trusty Stratocaster for a ride hardly ventured since Mock Tudor perhaps, just prior to the turn of the last century. There’s some superb performances here from the start, “The Storm Won’t Come” immediately draws the listener in with a song of expectant change disguised as impending doom, accompanied by a determined tribal beat. It’s an unexpectedly long opener, but totally spot on the mark for Thompson. The aforementioned “The Rattle Within”, is actually a wry look at the God problem posing the all-important and oft repeated question, basically who’s going to save us from the inevitable? There’s the obligatory biblical references also in “Bones of Gilead”, then there’s the equally obligatory guitar motifs, blistering and glistening on such as “Her Love Was Meant For Me”, “Do All These Tears Belong To You” and “The Storm Won’t Come”, together with one or two bluesy moments, notably “The Dog in You” (a Thompson title if ever there was one) and the mandolin even comes back out to play on the folky “No Matter”. True to form, Thompson leaves us with a reflection on the bigger questions in “Shaking the Gates”, a song that confirms that some of us remain dreamers, through and through. Produced by Thompson and engineered by Clay Blair, 13 Rivers sees the guitarist collaborate once again with regular musicians Michael Jerome, Taras Prodaniuk and Bobby Eichorn on what could very well be his finest album in several years.