Richard Thompson, “Beatnik Walking” from Still (2015): One Track Mind

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There’s a bit of the reeling drone of Scotland in “Beatnik Walking,” the folky stoicism of Fairport Convention, the lithe jazz of Barney Kessell, and the twinges of sadness from his last record with Linda Thompson. In other words, a bit of every part of Richard Thompson — save for a James Burton-inspired outburst on electric.

Quite frankly, I miss that last part, a part which propelled contemporary songs like the gloriously vengeful “Good Things Happen to Bad People.” But that doesn’t take anything away from the involving beauty surrounding “Beatnik Walking,” a song shot through with this ruminative spaciousness.

That Richard Thompson might happily frustrate our built-in desires, meanwhile, can hardly come as a surprise anymore. It’s part of his magic and his enduring power, as we follow Thompson’s curious quests through all of their many permutations.

He has seemed from the first to be governed by instinct, as much in his playing as in his career. Richard Thompson quit Fairport Convention, by all accounts, on a whim; never really pursued the stardom due him from those striking collaborations with Linda; embraced Sufi teachings that were entirely obscure to his core audience at the time; and memorably left longtime producer Joe Boyd for the idiosyncratic Mitchell Froom.

More recently, Richard Thompson scored a UK Top 20 hit with 2013’s Electric (home of “Good Things”) along side producer Buddy Miller, but has moved on to a new collaborator, anyway. “Beatnik Walking” advances Thompson’s forthcoming album Still, which will be overseen instead by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame.

Richard Thompson is a traveler, always has been, and “Beatnik Walking” — both in its lyric, and in its creation story — speaks to that. He’s typically seemed both close to his roots, and strangely free of them. Thompson does here, too.

Still is due on June 23, 2015 via Fantasy.

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