I'm not a long-time Richard Thompson fan. I admire one song of his, the appropriately named "'52 vincent black lightning," a typical English folk story-song that ends with someone dying. Now that I think about it, "52 Vincent Black Lightning" reminds me a lot of Robert Earl Keen's "The Road Goes on Forever." But that's another story for another time.
So it's with some trepidation that I'm sitting here listening to "The Old Kit Bag" and attempting to do it justice for Blogcritics. One other thing I should mention: I got the album off emusic.com, part of Thompson's new efforts to market himself now that he's out of the chains of the Big Label Record Company. That's good for me (I get some decent music out of my $9.99 subscription price). But the lyrics I found at Thompson's own site.
The straight skinny: Thompson puts out a yeoman's effort with this album. I could only find two songs on this album that didn't grow on me. Well worth the money considering how many albums only have two really good songs and a lot of filler.
So, I'm going to go through the album track-by-track and give you some impressions.
Gethsemane: Jangling guitars intro this song that fires the album off. It's a confident sound, even though there are only three instruments (guitar, bass and drums - imagine that). This is a harbinger of things to come. The song rambles a bit after about 4 minutes, but keeps going for two more. This extra bit includes a minute of gratuitous guitar soloing that really doesn't add anything to the song. Despite the obvious Biblical reference in the title, the song isn't about that Gethsemane. Really, the first 4 minutes sum up how life can break down a person into a mold of quiet desperation. That's contrasted with the wish of the chorus "Oh, be something, be something fine!"
Jealous Words: This song introduces a female backup vocalist, Judith Owen. It's a scorcher, with some screaming guitar lines and a crisp, attacking rhythm guitar line through the lyrics.
I'll Tag Along: When I first heard the opening bars of this one, I thought of Mark Knopfler. This is his kind of guitar picking. The song itself is radio material. the lyrics seem to speak of alienation and wanting to belong to a group, not knowing how to approach and join in. "I'll tag along, I'll keep out of your hair, you'll hardly know I'm there."