Richard Thompson-Small Town Romance

December 17, 2008

Richard Thompson

Small Town Romance (Hannibal 1984)

http://www.divshare.com/download/6116236-5bf

When one first encounters an artist with a vast discography, it is all too easy to reach for the accepted classics only to ignore the many back alleys and sidebars that make vast discographies so intruiging and rewarding. God knows that Richard Thompson’s solo work, collaborations with Linda Thompson as well as Fairport Convention are rife with worthwhile peaks and humdrum valleys. Thompson’s solo work of the mid 80s to the present gets ignored by anyone who doesn’t think that Ron Sexsmith and Billy Bragg are the bees knees. Actually, that is quite a slice of hyperbole, but folks rightfully gush over his brilliance in the 60s and 70s at the expense of great records like Rumour and Sigh, Amnesia and Mock Tudor. Yeah, they have their fannypack and granola munching moments, but musicians mature and evolve to varying degrees of success. However, Small Town Romance,  a live album recorded in 1982, exposes all of the sores and scabs of his divorce while exposing a vulnerable side of Thompson as he begins anew without his muse.

You can sense the hurt emanating from his voice and general demeanor as he plays. This is wholly unsurprising since 1982 was the year of his divorce from Linda Thompson. These internal and external conflicts fueled their collaborations and provided an edge lacking from his later work. Here, the edge has dulled and the furnace has gone cold. All that is left are broken pieces and he dutifully attempts to rearrange them on Small Town Romance.  He seems a bit lost without his usual foil when he tackles the songs they used to sing together. My heart really goes out to him on this one despite his own contributions to this sad conclusion.

There is one song in particular that really floors me and forces me to reflect on my own fuckups. “Beat the Retreat” deals with how he was prone to fuck things up. but took comfort in the fact that he could always retreat and find comfort in the arms of his love. On Small Town Romance, the door has been slammed shut and his backpedaling is only met by an empty bed.

Beat my retreat, back home to you
Beat my retreat, back home to you
I’m burning all my bridges
I’m burning all my bridges
I’m burning all my bridges
I’m running back home to you

Trailing my colours, back home to you
Trailing my colours, back home to you
This world is filled with sadness
This world is filled with sadness
This world is filled with sadness
I’m running back home to you

Follow the drum, back home to you
Follow the drum, back home to you
There was no sense in my leaving
There was no sense in my leaving
There was no sense in my leaving
I’m running back home to you

There is something so romantic, but flawed about the sentiment of this song. It is all about a man who can never decide what the hell he wants and blows things to holy hell, but expects his partner to welcome with open arms. There is also a deep sense of regret that permeates this song, but a sense of warmth and hope that there is someone out there in this cold world that loves you no matter what. I want to simultaneously punch and hug the man since he obviously has taken liberties, but really loves her to death and hates himself for every misstep.

It is one of those few showstoppers that renders the rest of the performances somewhat impotent by comparison. I used toincessantly listen to this song at the expense of the others. However, years have passed and the rest of the album feels like an old friend with a ton of hubris weighing it down at every turn.

One Response to “Richard Thompson-Small Town Romance”

  1. Neil Says:

    I’m now a Richard Thompson fan. Thanks.

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