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Mock Tudor

music reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Mock Tudor

Artist: Richard Thompson
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: August 1999

Review by LarryG
2½ stars out of 4

Now in his fourth decade of recording, Richard Thompson shows no sign of fading talent. While he's not showy about it, Thompson is about the best guitar player there is. He still has a gift for mixing rock and folk in different ways that sound both new and traditional. There's a risk of taking him for granted since his records are all fairly similar. But while none of his work since his classic last record with his ex-wife Linda, Shoot Out The Lights, has been perfect, it's generally been very good. Mock Tudor is not as good as his best solo work(I'd argue for Across a Crowded Room and Rumor and Sigh) and, unlike many of his recent records, it doesn't seem to have a classic (like The Ghost of You Walks from You? Me? Us?, Bee's Wing from Mirror Blue or Rumor and Sigh's 1952 Vincent Black Lighning), but Mock Tudor is quite good, filled with very good, well made songs.

Mock Tudor gets off to a great start with Cooksferry Queen. Thompson's strong, deep voice is so full of feeling that it easily expresses the story of a ruthless criminal type, suddenly made vulnerable by his love. The music suits the lyrics. Starting with just Thompson and his guitar, it grows into a joyful, gritty mix with Thompson's vocals and a good harmonica saving the song from sentimentality. Sibella is a good austere song about knowing his woman is pushing his buttons but enjoying things anyway. Thompson has a gift for making his guitar work fit with a song's melody while expanding on it. Sibella has a solo that surprisingly brings Neil Young's Southern Man to mind but it works.

While Mock Tudor is supposed to be about English suburban life, as on most of his records, a main topic is Thompson's confusion about women. Some of those songs work well. Crawl Back (Under My Stone), about a woman who doesn't think Thompson is worthy of travelling in her upper class circles, has a brilliant guitar line and his anger gives the song a great edge. Dry My Tears and Move On is self pitying but not morose and the spare instrumentation gives the song about leaving a woman who doesn't appreciate him a nice hopeful feeling. Bathsheba Smiles is about a cold, manipulating woman. The music, which somewhat resembles Dire Straits' sad, beautiful So Far Away, is suitably haunting with Thompson's dour vocals and his intricate guitar riff. Rhythm guitarist Teddy Thompson inobtrusively helps with backing vocals underlining Richard's. Walking the Long Miles Home is a good relaxed song with wry lyrics. Thompson has to walk home because he's missed the last bus and the more he walks, the more he convinces himself that he's fine with his breakup.

Mock Tudor is consistently solid musically. It does have some songs that feel like filler. Two Faced Love, another one about a manipulating woman he can't free himself of, is pleasant but doesn't go anywhere. Thompson's rage and tension seems real on Hard On Me but it mostly seems like an excuse for him to unleash an amazing solo. Uninhabited Man is draggy and not particularly interesting musically so his self pity doesn't go down as easily. Sights and Sounds of London Town shows musical brilliance. Intricately played mandolin and acoustic guitar create a great traditional folk feel, in the mold of 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, but Thompson's view is so dark that it's almost ridiculous with story after story of people who come to London with hope and end up being homeless, drug abusers, prostitutes or criminals. Mock Tudor ends with a couple more bleak, troubled songs.

Mock Tudor is not an indispensable addition to Thompson's catalog but it's worth having for long time fans and not a bad introduction for those not so familiar. It is another group of well made, often very good songs from an interesting personality and brilliant musician.



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