Richard Thompson, "Dream Attic" (Shout! Factory)
"Dream Attic" offers killer guitar solos and songs about murder. Same old Richard Thompson, in other words.
Except not quite. Thompson is fabulous as always, and the fretwork rivals his best ever. But even by his one-of-a-kind standards, this is a quirky assortment of songs.
There's a Middle Ages yarn and 1950s rock, Celtic fiddle and Squeeze-style pop. Thompson skewers ego and greed, sings of breakups and finds himself in the domestic doghouse. By the final song, at least six characters are dead.
Thompson and his four-piece backing band recorded the 13 tunes -- all new -- during a brief tour, and the live setting inspired terrific instrumental work. Pete Zorn's soprano sax emits evil laughter on the Wall Street satire "The Money Shuffle," while Joel Zifkin's violin break during "Stumble On" is a rare beauty. And then there's Thompson, playing in his sixth decade and still expanding his vocabulary of riffs. His solo after the final verse of the gruesome "Sidney Wells" runs 108 marvelous bars, leaving plenty of blood on the track.
CHECK THIS OUT: "A Brother Slips Away" is a sad but lovely ballad about loss, and the band's harmony singing on the chorus transforms the tune into a spiritual.