Teddy Thompson: Upfront & Down Low (Verve)

CD Review

Jul 18, 2007 at 2:06 pm

The six-year gap between Teddy Thompson's first two albums was more a result of scheduling than deliberation. In that span, Thompson coaxed his Folk legend mother, Linda Thompson, into the studio after a 17-year hiatus and co-wrote and co-produced the results, toured with his iconic Folk father Richard Thompson and recorded not only his sophomore album but an EP and his third full release, the Country homage of Upfront & Down Low. Ironies abound on Upfront, as Thompson trades his stellar songwriting methods for the interpretive skills he employs on this album of classic Country covers (save for the one original track, the ostensible title track, "Down Low"). Just as ironic is the fact that it takes the son of a pair of British Folk superstars to reveal the nuances and gentle beauty of Country music to an American audience. With a voice that suggests a cross between the powerful and evocative simplicity of Lyle Lovett and Jesse Winchester, Thompson has chosen a sterling set of songs to interpret — Merle Haggard's "(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers," Elvis Presley's "I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone," George Jones' "She Thinks I Still Care" — while not being overly precious arranging his own takes on the tracks. With a master's touch, a love of Country and a genetic genius for Folk, Teddy Thompson revisits the spirit of American Country music on Upfront while investing it with his own reverent influences, creating a sound that is at once classically informed and completely contemporary. (Brian Baker) Grade: A